A or B? Inconsistent grading policies prompt review by Beach schools committee

Parents of students in Virginia Beach middle and high schools have noticed an inconsistency in grading practices. For example, if a family has one child attending their zoned high school and another in an academy across town, the siblings could be seeing different policies on how their late assignments are handled.

Those inconsistencies were a main reason behind the creation of the Fair and Equitable Grading Practices committee. The 33-member committee includes administrators, principals, teachers, parents, school board members and four high school students. It is chaired by Cheryl Woodhouse, the school district’s senior executive director of middle schools.

The committee’s assignment: Research the current grading practices at the secondary level in Virginia Beach, look for inconsistencies between schools and make recommendations for changes to the School Board.

Woodhouse said their primary areas of focus are the purpose and scoring of homework, the practice of giving students zeros for not turning in work, and how retakes and reassessments should be graded. Schools already have guidelines on which to base their grading policies, but Woodhouse said building administrators have discretion in how they implement those guidelines.

An existing school document titled “Grading and Reporting Student Progress: Information for Parents and Students,” gives the following guidelines on two areas of concern:

  • Using zeros: “The use of zero is strongly discouraged because this does not accurately reflect a student’s understanding of the material.”
  • Late work: “When work is not completed on the date due, lowering the grade each day the work is late is an inappropriate practice. A student should be held accountable for work. Lowering the grade each day may give the student a message that there is no point in completing the work.”

The committee is also looking into the fact that no specific policies define how homework is graded or factored into a grade.

The group’s first public event is a forum that will run from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Princess Anne Middle School. Parents and community members are invited to attend and provide feedback and recommendations on current policies and potential changes.

Thomas Guskey, a nationally-recognized grading expert and professor at the University of Kentucky, will speak about work he has done with educational evaluation and assessment, and take questions from the audience and the committee, which will meet with him before the forum.

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