Grading FAQs

Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) reviewed the division’s grading practices at the secondary level and researched potential changes to guidelines for homework, late work and the use of zeros in grading. The goal was to ensure that grading practices are being used consistently and effectively to communicate a student’s true progress toward mastering a skill or concept in order to raise the levels of accountability and rigor for the division’s 67,000 students. To help parents and families better understand the updated VBCPS grading guidelines, 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 students’ 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. Previously, the guidelines were subject to each teacher’s interpretation, resulting in inconsistencies in grading practices from school to school. Weight given to homework and other assignments was also left to the discretion of the teacher, working within the guidelines. Following the work of the Fair and Equitable Grading Practices Committee, the division’s current policy and regulation call for teachers to collaborate by grade, department or specialized course to reach on their proposed grading and evaluation.

What type of grading practices are addressed in the guidelines?
The guidelines address 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.

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 division’s current grading practices?
To be clear, VBCPS teachers can still give zeros, if that was the collective decision of the grade level/course. That said, in the 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 was 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 the grading guidelines were revised, staff looked beyond only those students who are already achieving and considered how all 67,000 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, the collective goal must be for every student to be successful in school and prepared for college and the workplace.