Virginia School District Now Allowing Teachers To Give Zeros, Thus Tightening Rules On Homework Submission

A Virginia school district is modifying its grading system so that teachers can assign a grade of zero for assignments that students fail to submit.

The change comes after the Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) district relaxed its grading requirements last year after a one-year pilot program, a move that was criticized by parents and students. 

The Old Program Faced Criticism

Kim Putens, whose son just graduated from West Potomac High School, said in an interview with Fox 5 DC News that the changes failed to prepare students for the real world and amounted to “inflating grades.” 

The earlier change made the minimum possible grade 50%, regardless of whether the student turned in work or not.

The 50% percent grade was also, and still remains, the minimum grade for students who turn in work and make a ‘reasonable effort’ to finish an assignment,” according to a statement from FCPS to DC News Now

“At the end of the day, it just means that if you’re not going to do any work, you’re not going to get credit for doing any work,” Nathan Van Nuys, a math teacher at Mclean High School, told reporters Minsong Ha and Tanya Englemeir in an interview for The Highlander.

FCPS: Efforts Are Rewarded, But Parents Think Otherwise

McLean Assistant Principal Jeffrey Barham told Ha and Englemeir, “Part of the feedback that schools and students had given was that if a kid tries and gets a 55%, another kid can do nothing and still get a 50%.”

Parents weighed in on the policy when it was first rolled out, and they didn’t have much positive to say. The Fairfax County Parents Association told FOX 5 in a statement: “When you discard points and grades, you also discard objective measures of learning, thereby allowing people to claim learning has happened when it has not. 

It once again raises the question of whether FCPS is committed to providing students with a high-quality, rigorous education, or whether their goal is simply making it look like students are receiving a high-quality, rigorous education.”

The Fairfax County Parents Association also objected to the lack of parental input in the grading system and the lack of transparency surrounding the rollout of the grading system and claimed, “This sounds like another unresearched experiment being run on our kids.”

It’s Still Technically a Fail

The crux of the issue is that a 50% grade under the 4-point system is a 2.0, equivalent to a C.

Although FCPS uses both the 4-point system and a percentage system, a 50% under the percentage system, while equivalent to an F, “[designates] the status of a student who has not been able to complete tasks that are major components of the quarter grade for reasons considered appropriate by the teacher or team or by the principal or his or her designee.”

So, while technically a failure, the FCPS grading rubric adds that if a student receives a 50% in the percentage system, “[the] student is required to make up work within a specified time period in order to convert this “Incomplete” to a grade by the next quarterly progress report.”

For 50% To 0%

While FCPS has brought back the 0 grade for assignments that have not been turned in, the school district is keeping its late work policy, “in which teachers must accept major assignments up to two weeks late. The maximum deduction for that time period is 10%, balancing accountability and flexibility,” reports Gabby Allen for DC News Now.

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Students Believe It Is Counter-Productive

Although Ha and Englemeir report that teachers largely favor the return of the 0 grade, they also found that some students weren’t pleased with the change.

“I think that this policy will increase the amount of plagiarism and AI that is being used,” McLean sophomore Mia Mortman told Ha and Englemeir. “Flunking a test is really difficult to recover from grade-wise, and [the past] policy had made it a little bit easier to move on and recover from.”

Mortman also told Ha and Englemeir that the rollout of the zero grades was less than transparent. “Only one of my teachers explicitly stated the new grading policy; the others told us to review our syllabus. It felt like they knew it would be unpopular, so they didn’t want to be there when we found out.”

School District Postponed New Grading System

In an effort to make grades more transparent, FCPS said in a statement to DC News Now that in “the 2024-2025 school year, all grades will be on a 100-point scale, with 50% being the minimum grade for submitted assignments.”

“All high school credit-bearing classes will use the new scale next school year,” FCPS stated.

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This article was produced by TPR Teaching. Source.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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