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In The Name Of Equity, Virginia County Wants To Ban Homework Grades And Other Standards

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Empty classroom during COVID-19 pandemic - stock photo Empty classroom with chairs on the table during COVID-19 pandemic Charli Bandit via Getty Images
Charli Bandit via Getty Images

Arlington County, Virginia, recently introduced a proposal for a new grading system, based on the idea of equity, that would allow an unlimited number of retakes on assignments, ban extra credit, and would block grading on homework assignments, Fox News reported on Thursday. In response, numerous teachers from Arlington slammed the proposal, saying that it would essentially give children a free pass and dramatically reduce the quality of education in the county.

Proponents of the new system claim that having certain standards — like having late penalties in education — often harms poorer children who may not have access to resources necessary to complete assignments on time.

“Additionally, it has been suggested that students should not be graded on homework assignments because the fear of making mistakes will have a negative impact on their learning process,” Fox News added.

“There’s no labeling of students or ranking of students,” Dr. Erin Russo, the Principal of Discovery Elementary, said during a recent school board meeting regarding the proposal.

“It’s the ownership of what do I need to work on and where am I?” Russo argued.

But not everybody in Arlington Public Schools supports the idea. Teachers at Wakefield High submitted a lengthy letter of opposition.

“As educators with decades of experience in APS, we are extremely concerned with several changes proposed in the new grading and homework policy,” the teachers wrote.

“We believe that these changes will impact student learning and socio-emotional development and growth in a negative way. The changes, if implemented, will also result in the decline of high expectations and rigor in the classroom across all APS high schools.”

They also added that deadlines were necessary to “develop organizational, time and stress management skills and grow as responsible, civically engaged, and considerate young adults” and that, “to achieve these ends, students should be held accountable for completing their work in a timely manner and meeting deadlines that were reasonably established by their teachers.”

“Finally, given the emphasis on equity in today’s education systems, we believe that some of the proposed changes will actually have a detrimental impact towards achieving this goal,” the letter added. “Families that have means could still provide challenging and engaging academic experiences for their children and will continue to do so, especially if their child(ren) are not experiencing expected rigor in the classroom.”

“More specifically, those families can afford to hire tutors and sign-up their child(ren) to attend enrichment activities and camps in hopes of preparing them for the college application/admission process,” the educators theorized. “Students who come from families which are not as ‘savvy’ or ‘aware,’ will be subject to further disadvantage because they will not be held accountable for not completing their homework assignments and/or formative assessments according to the deadlines set by their teachers.”

“Such results are anything but equitable–conversely, they offer our most needy students reduced probability of preparing for and realizing post-secondary opportunities,” they added.

A spokesperson for Arlington Public Schools told Fox News that its policies are still under evaluation.

“This work is being done as part of the School Board’s work to update all policies and PIPs,” said the spokesperson. “As of right now, we are having preliminary conversations with instructional staff as to what makes sense in policy and what makes sense in practice at schools. There are two phases of the process before the School Board is scheduled to act on any recommendations in May. As part of Phase1, we provided some ideas for staff to look at as a starting point and asked all Instructional Lead Teachers to gather feedback from school-based staff on the first working drafts. This is the first of several opportunities for all teachers to provide feedback. Selected staff from each building will also participate directly in the revision process in Phase 2.”

On Fox Business, conservative David Webb argued that this entire proposal was nothing but “a race to the bottom.”

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