New Marking Period Assessments Replacing Final Exams
Last year, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) replaced two-hour final exams with quarterly marking period assessments in certain high school courses beginning this year. The change to marking period assessments will help us continue to improve instruction and provide more useful feedback to students about their learning. These new assessments are aligned to new standards and state/national tests like the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments or the redesigned SAT.
Information gathered from these assessments given throughout the year—instead of just at the end—will assist teachers in tailoring their instruction to student needs, give students multiple ways to demonstrate their learning, and help identify when students need additional support and interventions. In addition, the assessments will facilitate better monitoring, support, and accountability across MCPS.
As a result, our school is now implementing new quarterly marking period assessments in certain courses. Below are a few important things to know about the new assessments:
Quarterly marking period assessments are only being administered in courses that previously had a districtwide, MCPS-written final exam. These include the core academic courses in English, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), mathematics, science, social studies, and world languages.
More than 100 teachers worked with curriculum specialists in central services to develop the assessments to make sure they are good measures of student learning and will help improve instruction.
As a result, the new assessments are content-specific and highly specialized for each course. Unlike final exams, these assessments differ in format, length, and scoring, depending on the specific course or content area.
For example, in addition to traditional tests, the assessments also include PARCC-aligned items in mathematics; extended writing in English; document-based analysis in social studies; common laboratory tasks in science; and speaking and listening in world languages and ESOL.
Like other tasks given in class, the assessments may take different formats each marking period, providing students with multiple and varied ways to demonstrate learning over the course of the school year.
Most assessments will be administered during a single class period, while others may take place over two class periods, particularly those with extended writing, or speaking and listening components.
Like other assessments, students will be provided with accommodations as written in their individualized educational programs.
Teachers and curriculum specialists worked together to develop a timeline for the assessments, which were spread out over the second half of each marking period so that students would not be burdened with multiple tests on a single day or within a single week. Teachers will have flexibility to adjust the timing of the assessments if more instruction is needed before the assessment.
One of the goals of this change is greater transparency for students and parents. As a result, unlike final exams, graded assessments will be provided back to students and sent home after scoring.
The score on the assessment will count for a required 10 percent of each marking period grade, only in the courses that have a marking period assessment. Like any other test that our teachers give, the grade will be calculated as part of the marking period grade. The grade on the assessment will be visible online for students and parents to see. It is important to note that the remaining 90 percent of a student’s grade includes other graded tasks/assessments and homework as assigned by teachers.
Throughout this first year of implementation, MCPS will review the assessments and implementation process to ensure necessary adjustments or modifications are made for future semesters.
As a result of these changes, there have also been adjustments to the way semester grades are calculated. For more detailed information and frequently asked questions, please visit the MCPS website at www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org and search “assessment strategy.”
We hope this information is helpful as we make this important transition to more effectively measure our students’ progress throughout the school year and better support their learning. If you have any questions, please contact your child’s teacher in the specific course or contact Mrs. LaGrange at (301) 230-5930.