Baltimore County Update: CBE in Pictures, Words, and a Totally Revamped BCPS Grading Policy Aligned with Mastery-Based Ed

School is out and many are enjoying summer vacation, but local anti-CBE (Competency-Based Education) “warriors” have been hard at work.

This locally produced video just hit the STAR inbox.

It doesn’t pertain directly to BCPS’ digital transformation STAT, but to CBE (or personalized learning or proficiency-based education or insert your own buzzword) in general.  Watch until the end – it’s the viewer’s call to decide which reformer’s face could be superimposed over the wizard’s.

In Search of the Competency-Based Ed Reform Wizard

Another locally produced work is BCPS parent and Towson University Education Professor Morna McDermott’s recent blog post about CBE and the new “gig” economy.

“CBE delivers curriculum, instruction and assessments through online programming owned by third-party (corporate) organizations that are paid for with your tax dollars. Proponents of CBE use catchy language like “personalized” and “individualized” learning. Translation? Children seated alone interfacing with a computer, which monitors and adjusts the materials according to the inputs keyed in by the child.”

The final – and most critical – locally produced work is BCPS’ revamped Grading and Reporting Policy 5210 and accompanying Rule 5210


The details were outlined in a May 2016 presentation.

If we didn’t already know that Baltimore County is in the throes of CBE or Mastery-Based Education (MBE), this presentation proves it.

Stepping through the presentation, all the CBE/MBE signposts are there, including meaningless goals such as “Activate students as the owners of their own learning”  (one of the five “non-negotiable” components of effective formative assessment):

  • “In contrast, students who are motivated by mastering learning goals persevere in the face of such challenges. Difficult tasks or setbacks do not diminish motivation or self-esteem. Students with learning orientations—or growth-mindsets—are more likely to choose more difficult but rewarding ways to demonstrate learning. These students believe effort will lead to eventual success, and thus they develop a willingness to try and persist.” (COMMENT: This sounds like “grit”.)
  • “Teachers should remind students that they are working with them to help them reach mastery” and “teachers are responsible for … determining the degree to which students have mastered grade-level standards based on the body of evidence.”
  • “BCPS also believes penalizing students for late or missing work is not a practice that promotes learning. Recording a zero on a student’s assignment will not motivate the student to work harder or learn content at a higher or faster rate (O’Conner, 2007). While BCPS curriculum guides suggest a standard pacing of instruction, penalizing a student for requiring more time, support, or resources to master a standard or learning goal is contrary to differentiation, customization, personalization, and best practices in teaching and learning.”
  • “Determining final achievement grades based on a collected body of evidence aligned to course expectations and standards.”

The final, and most logical, signpost:

“The final marking period grade … must be based on individual mastery of knowledge and skills.”

Devices are in students’ hands, third-party ed-tech contracts have been signed, teachers have been retrained, curriculum has been revamped (or removed, depending upon your perspective), and the grading and reporting policy has been reworked. It’s official – Mastery-Based Education is the new model for Baltimore County Public Schools.