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School officials are concerned about the state Board of Education’s recent approval of an A-F grading scale for schools, and rightly so.
The new scale, which will assign an overall grade for every school in Virginia, will complement the accreditations and federal accountability rating systems that are already in place. However, many educators feel that the grade will give too simplistic a view of their schools’ capabilities.
There are a number of factors that make up a successful school, just as there are factors that make up a successful student. Students study different subjects, including math, English, science and history. They run laps and dunk basketballs in gym class. Some are involved with extracurricular activities, like chorus or band. Some serve as mentors for students who are younger than them. Every student does something different. They have their strengths and their weaknesses, which are reflected in multiple grade scores that they bring home to show their parents at the end of each grading period.
While the other scoring systems show the same variety of strengths and weaknesses with school systems as a student’s report card, the A-F grading system will boil everything down to a single letter. If a school is proficient in other areas, but has one or two weaknesses, those weaknesses will drag its overall grade down.
It has been confirmed that most of the state’s schools will earn an A or B letter grade based on the preliminary data. However, the new system will make it too easy for these grades to drop, for example, if a student body struggles with the introduction of a newer and more difficult curriculum.
The new grading scale is scheduled to begin next year, but the Virginia School Boards Association and the Virginia Association of School Board Supervisors are planning to lobby against it, in the hopes of delaying the implementation for the next three years.
In the meantime, we give the grading scale a well-deserved “F” for failing to take into account the complexity of public education.