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2512 George Mason Drive • P.O. Box 6038 Virginia Beach, Virginia 23456-0038   757.263.1000 • 757.263.1240 TDD


Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) is currently reviewing the divisionís grading practices at the secondary level and researching potential changes to guidelines for homework, late work and the use of zeros in grading. The goal is to ensure that grading practices are being used consistently and effectively to communicate a studentís true progress toward mastering a skill or concept in order to raise the levels of accountability and rigor for the divisionís nearly 70,000 students. As a school division, our priority must be to help all students achieve at a higher level.

To help parents and families better understand VBCPS grading guidelines and how they can provide input to the Fair and Equitable Grading Committee, the school division has prepared this list of Frequently Asked Questions.

How are VBCPS students currently being graded?

At the elementary level, students receive standards-based report cards that include proficiency scores rather than a single letter grade. The report card provides specific feedback about studentsí progress toward a skill or understanding of a concept. The grading committee is not reviewing changes to this practice.

At the secondary level, students receive the traditional letter grades, A-E. The school division provides grading guidelines to staff each year to assist them in evaluating student performance fairly and consistently. However, the guidelines are subject to each teacherís interpretation, resulting in inconsistencies in grading practices from school to school. Weight given to homework and other assignments is also left to the discretion of the teacher, working within the guidelines. The Fair and Equitable Grading Practices Committee is reviewing these practices so grading will be more consistent across secondary schools.

Why are changes to the secondary grading practices necessary?

Grades should not be a competition or reward/punishment system. They must be a way to communicate effectively where students truly are in the learning process.

Teachers engage in daily, continuous assessment of student understanding, and then use this information as the basis for planning future instruction and support for students. Students who have not been successful on a graded assessment must have the opportunity for additional instruction and reassessment. The Fair and Equitable Grading Practices Committee will recommend the best way to capture that work and growth through possible revisions to the VBCPS grading practices.

What type of grading practices are being examined?

The committee is looking at a number of grading practices, including but not limited to grading of homework, acceptance of late work, the use of zeros for work not turned in as well as proper and efficient reassessments. Specifically, the committee is looking at the non-negotiables in grading and ensuring the divisionwide implementation of those practices.

Are students going to lose accountability by changing these practices? Why/why not?

Students are first and foremost accountable for their own learning. By creating an environment where the priority is not solely achieving a specific grade, but on mastering the content of the class, students are held to the challenge of meeting each and every standard taught.

Failing a student or giving the student a zero for missing work only excuses the student from the work and the learning. Completing an assignment that was not done or re-doing an assignment that did not meet the standard sends the message to the student that the assignment does matter as a learner in the class.

How will updated grading practices enhance student learning?

To begin, updated grading practices will give students across our division a consistency that is much needed. All students, no matter what school they attend, will know how efforts inside and outside the classroom will be assessed and learning measured.

Not all students will achieve mastery of a skill or concept at the same rate. Our focus must be on providing as many opportunities as students need to master the skills.

For example, as one VBCPS principal noted, mastering a skill in class is like riding a bike. One student may start the school year knowing how to ride a bike. For another, it may take a few weeks and a lot of practice. At the end of the nine weeks, if both students can ride a bike, they both have mastered the skill despite how long it took one of them to get there.

Why are zeros discouraged in the divisionís current grading practices?

In its grading guidelines, VBCPS has historically "highly discouraged" the use of zeros in grading. This is in part because zeros are counterproductive to motivation. Giving a student a zero only measures what he/she has not done, not what he/she has the ability to do. In addition, when assignments are given, they are to be completed. By requiring a student to turn in work and not simply accept a zero, we are reinforcing the expected rigor for every child in every classroom.

Additionally, when a zero is averaged in with other grades, it can ruin a student's overall grade, making it nearly impossible to make up. This is especially true if the assignment that received the zero was more heavily weighted than other classroom assignments.

How is this going to benefit my child?

Parents of students who are already high-achieving may question why a change to grading practices is needed. Ultimately, helping all students become high-achievers will increase the reputation and standards of the school, making the students who excel at that school more attractive to potential college admission officers and employers.

As we revise our guidelines, we must look beyond only those students who are already achieving and consider how all 70,000 students in Virginia Beach schools will be successful. For students who have traditionally not been high-achieving, the increased rigor of the classroom will encourage them to achieve success at high levels. As a school division, as parents and as a community, our collective goal must be for every student to be successful in school and prepared for college and the workplace.

Last Modified on Thursday, June 15, 2017