Arlington Public Schools lowers grading standards in the name of ‘equity’

A Virginia school district is revising its grading policies to create “equitable grading processes.” 

The new policies allow students to redo assignments, turn in late work, and reduce…

A Virginia school district is revising its grading policies to create “equitable grading processes.” 

The new policies allow students to redo assignments, turn in late work, and reduce the weight given to homework and quizzes.  

“[The updates should] motivate [students] to continue by learning to redeem themselves and learn the material,” Superintendent Francisco Durán said at the school board meeting on Thursday. “It will also increase the rigor by insisting that all students achieve mastery rather than accepting just a one-time failure.”  

However, board member Reid Goldstein expressed concern that the changes would not prepare students for the real world. 

“I’m all for lowering pressure on students, for improving mastery, improving self-advocacy, strengthening social-emotional learning,” Goldstein said in a May meeting. “I am concerned about students in their post-APS life, as I said, believe that there’s flexibility in deadlines.” 

Nonetheless, Superintendent Durán approved the changes for Arlington Public Schools, which will go into effect in the upcoming school year.  

Arlington isn’t the only district lowering its academic standards.  

Parents from the neighboring Fairfax County expressed frustration when similar changes were made – and with poor results.  

“The whole idea was to make it equitable,” explained Kim Putens, a local parent. “What I find at the end of the school year is that my son didn’t learn anything, and he was in four AP classes. He didn’t learn a thing.”  

Other parents directly questioned the rationale behind the new grading system.  

“The most perhaps scary one is that a minimum score on an exam is 50,” said Glenn Miller. “If you don’t turn it in, you get a 50. If you get everything wrong, you get a 50.”  

The Fairfax County Parents Association also weighed in, calling into question the integrity of the public school system. 

“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,” the association told local media.  

“It once again raises the question of whether FCPS is committed to providing their 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,” it concluded.  

Despite pushback from parents, districts nationwide – from California to Georgia – are lowering their academic standards.  

However, research shows that having high grading standards helps students of all ethnicities and income levels be more successful. 

“Lax grading is a pernicious practice that provides students and parents with a false sense of security and accomplishment,” said researcher and economist Seth Gershenson. “Low grading standards pose a grave threat to the performance and evaluation of U.S. public schools that ultimately jeopardizes the competency of high school and college graduates who are entering the workforce.”  

Just as Gershenson warns, colleges are finding that high school graduates are less prepared for rigorous academics. Even before the pandemic, college readiness was at its lowest in 15 years, according to the ACT website.