Fix the Grading System for Fairfax County Public Schools!

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Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia is home to nearly 189,000 students*, commands the second most used public school bus fleet in the nation**, and employs over 28,000 people.* It is also ranked as one of the best academically performing school systems in the U.S.A.,  having ten high schools that are ranked in the top 30 in the state of Virginia***, and its S.T.E.M based school, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, is ranked #6 in the country.#

Despite its high caliber rankings, grades for individual students remains a large problem. As a student, I have suffered a number of stressful classes where I frantically worked to boost my grade to an 'A,' and all because our schools don't award grades equitably. The students, parents, and teachers of FCPS deserve better. Grades shouldn't trick or punish students. Our school system's current scale for grading students is insufficient, inconsistent with other schools, and hampers student achievement. But with our new proposed grading system, we can fix all of that. It will make 'A's easier to earn, make it harder for students to fail, and all around increase student academic achievement while reducing student stress. These changes will allow not just the schools to flourish, but students as well.                                   

Currently, all assignments in FCPS are graded on the following scale:

4.0 A (100-93)                                   3.7 A- (92-90)

3.4 B+ (89-87)                                   3.0 B (86-83)

2.7 B- (82-80)                                    2.4 C+ (79-77)

2.0 C (76-73)                                     1.7 C- (72-70)

1.4 D+ (69-67)                                   1.0 D (66-64)

0.0 F (Below 64)

This scale was enacted in 2009 to remedy the somewhat flawed "5-Point" grading scale from the early 2000s and 1990s. Many school board members have even said they are proud of the FCPS grading scale because "a 90 or higher is an 'A.'" This, however, is not the actual case. Students who receive a 90-92 for a grade are awarded an 'A-.' This grade is 0.3 lower on the G.P.A. scale, punishing students whom still earn high marks.

Furthermore, to fail an assignment (or class) a student need only earn a 63%. Given that FCPS defines an 'F' as "the status of a student who has not demonstrated the basic knowledge...or skills"## for a class, it makes no logical sense that students earning nearly 2/3 the credit for an assignment are deemed to have zero basic knowledge. These problems should be fixed. Grading ought to be simplified.

That is why we, the undersigned students, parents, teachers, and community members of Fairfax County and beyond, hereby recommend that the Fairfax County School Board pass and the FCPS Superintendent implement this NEW grading scale for all FCPS students. 

The NEW FCPS Grading Scale:

4.0 A (100-90)                                    3.7 A- (89-87)

3.4 B+ (86-84)                                    3.0 B (83-80)

2.7 B- (79-77)                                     2.4 C+ (76-74)

2.0 C (73-70)                                      1.7 C- (69-67)

1.4 D+ (66-64)                                    1.0 D (63-56)

0.0 F (55 and below)

The most basic aspects of this change are these:

1.  90-100% scores will now earn students the grade of 'A' and a 4.0 G.P.A.

2.  Scores of 55% and below now warrant 'F's instead of 64%, resulting in an extra buffer of nine percent where students no longer feel the pressure of failing.

3.  All other grading percentages have been moved down by 3%, no new letter grades are to be added, and no other G.P.A. scale changes have been made.

If the Fairfax County School Board implements this new grading scale, these are just a few of the many positive effects:

1. A more easily earned 'A.'

All students, myself included, have felt the pressure of trying to earn that *perfect* G.P.A. in any one class. No longer will students with high grades have to fret over a few percentage points (e.g. 92-93) to earn their 'A.' If a student has a grade of 90% or higher, he/she has demonstrated mastery. This new grading scale will reflect that.

2. Grading aid to students struggling in classes.

Tens of thousands of FCPS students will fail a class this year, a sad figure to imagine. But what if there were a way to help students with low test scores? If the FCPS grading scale is modified, 'F's will become nine percentage points harder to receive, giving relief to students and preventing many from having to take expensive summer makeup courses or worse: attend school an additional year. This, in turn, will also save the county A LOT of money.

3. Reduced number of incomplete assignments.

In recent years, the Fairfax County School Board has implemented a policy stating the lowest grade that can be given on work or tests is 50%.^ While this has aided students with missing work, it has also become an incentive not to try on any assignment at all, since the lowest grade is only a 50 and to avoid that 'F' a student needs a 64%. However, by lowering the 'F' grade to 55%, a 'D' will become more attainable to students, and the "No-Zero Rule" will still prevent students from quickly flunking while enabling some to persevere to earn even higher grades.

4. Increased FCPS' Academic Competitiveness

When comparing FCPS with neighboring school systems, its grading scale is actually a bit harsher at evaluating students. In the bordering school systems of Prince William^^ and Arlington counties~, students are only required grades of 90% or higher to earn an 'A' as opposed to Fairfax County's requirement of 93%. Also, the neighboring school systems of Prince William^^, Arlington~, and Loudoun counties~~ do not assign the grade of 'F' unless an assignment or test is below 59% as opposed to Fairfax County's assigning of 'F's below 64%.

By implementing this new grading scale, not only will FCPS match the surrounding school norms for earning an 'A'; it will be one of the harder counties to fail in! And that is not only good news for FCPS students' grades, self-esteem, and overall pride in their schools. And, it will boost FCPS' overall academic rating. 

With this new grading system, we can enable Fairfax County Public Schools' students to thrive, be more competitive, and have less stress from grades. We will even improve the quality of our local education system.  Some students with 'C's may get 'B's, or students with 'B's 'A's! Some failing students may pass!!!     For a change this monumental to occur though, we cannot do it alone. We need every signature we can get. The process will be long; this won't be easy. But with enough grassroots support, we can fix our public schools' grading system! 

To quote Robin Cook:

"Education is more than a luxury; it is a responsibility that society owes to itself."


For a link to a printable version of our proposed new grading scale, click here:

(Note: link only accessible to those with FCPS Gmail accounts)



*FCPS Statistics

**Size of Public School Bus Fleets

***FCPS School Rankings, USNEWS

#TJHSST School Ranking, USNEWS

##FCPS Current Grading Scal

^FCPS "No-Zero" Policy

^^Prince William County Public Schools Grading System

~Arlington County Public Schools Grading System

~~Loudoun County Public Schools Grading System

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