Virginia Beach school district backs off grading policy changes

The Virginia Beach Public School District has decided against pursuing changes to grading practices across the division, following feedback from parents and the public.

Superintendent Aaron Spence told parents and staff about the decision in an email Tuesday, saying it was based on feedback from teacher survey data, forum comment cards and e-Town Hall responses.

“It’s clear there is not consensus on division-wide changes to grading practices at this time,” Spence wrote. “Therefore, the committee and I agree that there should be no wholesale changes made to grading practices at the secondary level.”

Spence wrote that as the district’s Fair and Equitable Grading Practices Committee reviewed the feedback from teachers and the public, the following became clear:

  1. Parents, students and teachers are extremely invested in our schools, our instructional practices and the way we measure student achievement.
  2. Our community does not support a division-wide change to our current grading scale. The reasons for this vary from competitiveness for college applications to the belief that changes may somehow diminish expectations for students.
  3. About half of our secondary teachers, and about as many parents and community members, think that reporting behaviors separately from academic grades is a good idea. The other half either does not support the idea or indicated they would like more information about this at the secondary level.

The committee will not recommend moving forward with bringing the School Board the original recommendations on which it sought feedback, including revision of the grading scale and assessing academic progress independently of behavior, according to Spence’s email.

However, Spence said concerns about grading consistency still need to be addressed. A small group of administrators and teachers from the committee will be formed to update current secondary school grading guidelines, he wrote.

Those updates will not be major overhauls, but rather target areas for better clarity on practices and expectations, Spence said. That review will consider recent feedback to locate areas that can be improved. Examples include clearly defining the steps that should be taken before a teacher assigns a zero, and capping the percentage worth of homework in relation to grades.

The School Board will review those updated guidelines in a May workshop and consider whether middle and high school staff should come to a common agreement about how to use these guidelines, Spence said in the email.

“Asking our board to consider capturing this in policy is a first step towards ensuring consistency within our middle and high schools across departments and grade levels,” he wrote. “Doing so would also create another opportunity for you to engage in thoughtful conversations about these issues at your school.”

Read Southside Daily’s previous coverage of the grading policy issue:

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