After nearly year of work, it will be a couple of more weeks before the School Board will vote on a new policy intended to streamline and standardize grading across the district.
The School Board voted 7-1 Tuesday night to defer a vote on the proposal until its Oct. 22 meeting. Chris Croll (Catoctin) opposed the motion and Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) was absent.
Among the changes getting the most attention in the eight-page policy are plans to eliminate grades of zero for missing assignments, prohibitions on opportunities for extra credit and doing away with homework grades. The policy also calls for teachers to offer reassessments for students who perform poorly on tests.
The revised policy was developed over the past year with the guidance of a consultant and input from focus groups of educators, parents and college recruiters. Administrators hope to have the comprehensive rewrite of school division grading policies in place by the next school year.
According to the policy, the philosophy of the school division’s kindergarten through high school grading system should be that “[a]ssessment and grading of student progress are based on the premise that students have diverse capabilities and individual patterns of progress and learning. Teachers and principals are responsible for developing instructional plans based on frequent and varied assessments of the students’ needs, abilities, and progress. Grades shall not reflect behavior but rather, a student’s mastery of content or competencies of the curriculum.”
Among the concerns raised during the board’s past two meetings is that teachers haven’t had enough input. Several have expressed worries about increased workload and questioned the merits of some of the proposed changes.
School Board members on Tuesday also raised questions about some of the changes and said they needed more time to meet with teachers and parents before deciding if they would propose amendments before an adoption vote.
Tom Marshall (Leesburg) and Beth Huck (At Large) were among those who said there is value in allowing teachers to offer extra credit.
“For a student who struggles on a test or has a bad day and fails a test and really wants to do some extra work to show competency in a subject, I believe extra credit is a way to achieve that,” Huck said.
Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) was among those questioning whether the policy goes removes too much flexibility from teachers who best know the needs of individual students.
“All we can do is make sure all the teachers have the same training and same materials,” he said, adding that consistency would come from promoting collaboration among teachers.
“I really think we need to get some more input from teachers,” Huck said.
Croll and Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) said it was important to get the policy finalized so work could begin to develop the detailed guidelines that will be used to implement it.
Croll said that no policy change will win the support of the entire staff.
“This is a specific philosophy. We’re going to have staff who buy the philosophy and we’re going to have staff members who don’t,” she said. “There will be some staff members who say there should be no reassessments because you should study and get it right the first time. We have others who believe in the growth mindset and feel it is really about mastery and not behavior.”
She said it’s important to build consistency in grading. “Right now, it is the wild west. Teachers are inconsistent and students are gaming the system,” Croll said. “We’re trying to get to standardization.”
Although agreeing to a two-week delay in the vote, Hornberger said that many of the concerns raised by School Board members and teachers already were addressed in the policy and would be further defined in the implementation guidelines. “There is a lot of flexibility here,” he said.