The Albemarle County School Board “Didn’t Ask Many Questions.”

Atif Qarni, Virginia Secretary of Education, is pleased

by James C. Sherlock

As sure as the sun rises in the east, the coming woke fix for achievement gaps in schools will be modified grading standards as part of antiracism policies.

Albemarle County is already there. The School Board is poised to approve a new grading policy at its meeting September 24. “During the meeting, board members were pleased with the policy and didn’t ask many questions.”

Readers can be for that or against it, and it may prove a good thing, or not. Proof will be in the execution.

There is no word how college admission offices will perceive and evaluate the grades of applicants from Albemarle County high schools.  Also none on how students transferring from Albemarle County schools to another district or state will be evaluated for proper class placement in their new schools and their grades translated for transcript purposes.

Details to be worked out.

The cognitive dissonance in the reasoning of advocates of the grading change is apparent in two stories from the Charlottesville Daily Progress Sep 12, 2020 and  Feb 1, 2020.  It is also apparent in the DRAFT Grading Policy itself.

Some of the thoughts expressed by school officials and teachers interviewed for those articles:

“If you really want to close gaps and make things equitable, you’ve got to start addressing these inequalities in our schools, and grading is a big one,” Thomas said in an interview before the board meeting.”

“Initially, we designed the policy to be a philosophical framework for how we should think about grading,” said Natalie Farrell, a lead coach for mathematics. “They should be based on accuracy, consistency and they should support student learning. Those are our beliefs as a division, so getting that policy on paper is step one for us.”

“It’s a very real thing that affects a lot of students when your grades are not based on your content knowledge necessarily but the preparation or what you can bring in,” board member Katrina Callsen said. “So I’m very appreciative of the work. I’m excited to see us at this level of consistency across our grades in grading.”

“As part of the policy, the division outlines guiding practices, including how grades should be accurate and support student learning.”

“Accuracy means that grades should align to the standards for student learning, accurately describe student achievement, be impartial and fair and be separated from work habits, among other provisions, per the policy.”


“With standards, it’s not right or wrong,” said Stacey Heltz, an assistant principal at Charlottesville High School. “[A student] might’ve gotten the final answer wrong, but as a teacher, I can see that the student really gets the concept and they might’ve made a calculation error.”

“More equitable grading means not counting homework, class participation or other behaviors, teachers said.”

“In a standards-based class, the homework piece is not really factored into that grade,” she said. “ … But their grade in a regular classroom or on a traditional grading scale might be low because they don’t access or because they might be taking care of their siblings. So their grade is negatively impacted, not because they don’t understand but because they didn’t play the game of school.”

“(Superintendent) Thomas said changing grading ties into the division’s anti-racism policy, which calls on staff to ensure that each student can be successful. “This is one of those inequalities — grading — that we know happens systemically nationwide, and we’re going to tackle it and it’s going to be hard and we have a lot of staff members who are excited about that and want to get behind that,” he said.

Summing it up.

“A team of teachers and division staff members will figure out guidelines to help teachers implement those tenets.”

“(Superintendent Thomas said … that changing grading practices will be a big challenge.”

More details to be worked out.

The see the details of the challenge, I consulted the DRAFT Grading Policy  presented to the Board on September 10.

Per the policy, “Grading practices in the ACPS will be:”

– Accurately ​describe student achievement of knowledge and skills demonstrated in school
– Align to standards for student learning
– Be separated from work habits
– Be impartial and fair, not influenced by a teacher’s implicit bias or reflective of a
student’s environment
– Utilize mathematically sound calculations

Supportive of Student Learning
– Reflect individual differences and rates of learning
– Address the unique needs of special populations of students
– Make adjustments for transitional periods (including elementary to middle and middle to
– Encourage students to take an active role in setting goals and assessing progress
– Foster a positive self-image for the student
– Inform teaching practices and student learning
– Promote practices that encourage continuous engagement in learning
– Provide parents and students ongoing, credible, and useful feedback in a timely manner

Be consistent within and across students, teams, departments, courses, and schools”

“Align to standards for student learning”, “separated from work habits”, “not influenced by a teacher’s implicit bias”, “unique needs of special populations of students”,  “adjustments for transitional periods”, “inform teaching practices and student learning”.

The School Board “didn’t ask many questions.” Really.

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24 responses to “The Albemarle County School Board “Didn’t Ask Many Questions.”

  1. Based on the above, it is clear that grading practices will have to “reflect individual differences and rates of learning” and “address the unique needs of special populations of students” while being “consistent within and across students, teams, departments, courses, and schools”.

    It’s easy. Teachers just need to be consistently inconsistent in the way they grade students. No problem.

    Or, to quote one of my favorite singers, “It was clear as mud but it covered the ground And the confusion made the brain go ’round.”

  2. As far as I can tell this says that a teacher shouldn’t grade for homework completion or classroom participation. Grades should be confined to assessing mastery of the subject. Is there more to this? If not, my guess is that this plan will backfire badly. Students who only completed the homework because it was graded will, by and large, stop doing homework. They will then fail the tests. You see … doing ungraded homework is a form of planning ahead which we all know is a habit practiced only by White people and is inherently racist. Given that anti-racism hasn’t yet stamped out the filthy White habit of planning ahead one can expect that some White students will continue to exhibit fragility by doing homework whether it is graded or not. Children from other races who have not been falsely indoctrinated by the racist concept of planning ahead will know not to bother with ungraded homework. Sadly, many Asian American children and some Black and Hispanic children have been so corrupted by White racism that they will practice “planning ahead” and do the homework whether it is graded or not. How sad. As further proof of systemic racism it will be these children who ace the tests and go on to high levels of academic achievement.

  3. Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children above average…..

  4. You can put me in the skeptic column also. I sure as heck don’t want my Doctor to be rated high for good intentions or “trying hard”.


    The schools have been pushed to desperate measures because to this point, they have failed to deliver equitable outcomes – and no that does not mean outcomes that are quota-based.

    I still point to comparing academic results at different schools in the same school district.

    In places like Fairfax – 3rd grade reading SOL scores can vary between schools by 30 points or more. Some of the best educated kids in the Country are produced by Fairfax …… and some of the lowest.

    Same school system. Same administrators. Same curriculum but vastly different outcomes.

    And I don’t think changing grading schemes is going to fix that disparity – there’s something else going on.

    • Some of the worst educated kids in the country? I’ll bite. How do you determine that? I know for a fact that Fairfax takes strong action to target small class sizes, etc at the children of the least wealthy residents of the county. Apparently, if your statement is correct, I guess that’s not working.

      • Grade 6 Reading SOL scores

        Woodburn Elementary 53.85
        Dogwood Elementary 54.95
        Mount Vernon Woods Elementary 55
        Mount Eagle Elementary 55.36
        Woodley Hills Elementary 58.06
        Hutchison Elementary 58.65
        Groveton Elementary 59.78
        Timber Lane Elementary 62.34
        Crestwood Elementary 63.1
        Herndon Elementary 63.85
        Cameron Elementary 64.91
        Lynbrook Elementary 65.15
        Coates Elementary 65.28
        Graham Road Elementary 66.13
        Forestdale Elementary 66.67
        Poe Middle 66.88
        Westlawn Elementary 67.83
        Cunningham Park Elementary 68.42
        Brookfield Elementary 69.75
        Glasgow Middle 69.92
        Hollin Meadows Elementary 71.21
        Fort Belvoir Upper 71.25
        Woodlawn Elementary 71.64
        Centre Ridge Elementary 71.72
        Holmes Middle 71.99
        Bucknell Elementary 72.97
        Lake Anne Elementary 73.81
        Freedom Hill Elementary 74.03
        Clearview Elementary 74.31
        Providence Elementary 74.44
        Pine Spring Elementary 74.6
        Lorton Station Elementary 75
        Halley Elementary 75.51
        Daniels Run Elementary 75.64
        Hybla Valley Elementary 75.76
        Marshall Road Elementary 76.19
        Washington Mill Elementary 76.25
        Deer Park Elementary 77.78
        Garfield Elementary 77.78
        London Towne Elementary 77.78
        Rose Hill Elementary 79.35
        Eagle View Elementary 80
        Riverside Elementary 80.56
        Saratoga Elementary 80.58
        Centreville Elementary 80.6
        Virginia Run Elementary 80.72
        Bull Run Elementary 81.15
        Fort Hunt Elementary 81.54
        Cardinal Forest Elementary 82.11
        Dranesville Elementary 82.18
        Gunston Elementary 83.12
        Shrevewood Elementary 83.33
        Fairfax Villa Elementary 83.54
        Terraset Elementary 83.61
        Westgate Elementary 84.13
        Forest Edge Elementary 84.38
        Franconia Elementary 84.51
        Bush Hill Elementary 84.75
        Hayfield Elementary 84.85
        Bonnie Brae Elementary 85
        Island Creek Elementary 85
        Camelot Elementary 85.48
        Rolling Valley Elementary 85.92
        McNair Elementary 86.09
        Greenbriar East Elementary 86.24
        Laurel Hill Elementary 86.71
        Armstrong Elementary 86.89
        Laurel Ridge Elementary 86.89
        Fairview Elementary 86.96
        Belle View Elementary 87.1
        Silverbrook Elementary 87.1
        Hunt Valley Elementary 88
        Clermont Elementary 88.16
        Kings Glen Elementary 88.62
        Lemon Road Elementary 88.64
        Crossfield Elementary 88.89
        Stratford Landing Elementary 88.97
        Lane Elementary 89
        Hunters Woods Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences 89.47
        Cub Run Elementary 89.58
        White Oaks Elementary 89.73
        Lees Corner Elementary 89.91
        Stenwood Elementary 90.16
        Little Run Elementary 90.24
        Olde Creek Elementary 90.28
        Union Mill Elementary 90.85
        Fairhill Elementary 91.07
        Oakton Elementary 91.18
        Archer Elementary 91.35
        Newington Forest Elementary 91.67
        Waples Mill Elementary 91.67
        Ravensworth Elementary 91.76
        Oak View Elementary 91.87
        Floris Elementary 92.04
        Churchill Road Elementary 92.19
        Vienna Elementary 92.19
        Greenbriar West Elementary 92.45
        Springfield Estates Elementary 92.78
        Chesterbrook Elementary 93.4
        Powell Elementary 93.6
        Navy Elementary 93.83
        Terra Centre Elementary 93.83
        Spring Hill Elementary 93.88
        Wakefield Forest Elementary 94.05
        Keene Mill Elementary 94.07
        Cherry Run Elementary 94.44
        Sherman Elementary 94.44
        Orange Hunt Elementary 94.49
        Oak Hill Elementary 94.64
        Flint Hill Elementary 94.69
        Kent Gardens Elementary 95.36
        Sunrise Valley Elementary 95.45
        Canterbury Woods Elementary 95.56
        Great Falls Elementary 95.7
        Mantua Elementary 95.72
        Aldrin Elementary 96.2
        Westbriar Elementary 96.3
        Wolftrap Elementary 96.43
        Mosby Woods Elementary 96.47
        Colvin Run Elementary 96.58
        Poplar Tree Elementary 96.77
        Haycock Elementary 97.14
        Sangster Elementary 97.28
        Willow Springs Elementary 97.31
        Waynewood Elementary 97.87
        Forestville Elementary 100
        Fox Mill Elementary 100
        West Springfield Elementary 100

        from VDOE testing build-a-table

        • How does that prove any Fairfax County school is among the “worst educated in the country”? Let’s start with Woodburn Elementary’s score of 53.85. Fine. Is that the lowest in Virginia? I’d expect so if your contention that Fairfax provides some of the lowest [SIC] educated kids in the country.

          Simply listing the scores in elementary schools in Fairfax proves nothing.

          • I said some of the lowest and that’s true.

            What I listed was more than the scores –

            that list shows just how divergent the scores are in the same school system

            And I asked the question – why?

            Why does one of the best school systems in Virginia – also have some of the lowest SOL scores in some of it’s schools – at the same time other schools have very high scores?

            There are highly divergent scores for the same race – even white kids scores are highly divergent depending on what school.

            What explains that?

            Got an answer?

          • James – much appreciate you candor. I’ve heard this before from other teachers.

            You tangle with the wrong parents and it can affect your job depending on whose further up the food chain.

            But this also sounds like a little bit of a failed strategy if you’re trying to get the kid into a magnet school or a good college, no?

          • James – I think teachers are the salt of the earth and I thank you for all the years you gave in helping kids get educated!

        • James Wyatt Whitehead V

          Now Mr. Larry lets dig up the A to F grades in those schools. You will find a very different number. SOL scores and teacher created report card grades are often two very different things now.

          • James – I don’t doubt that – and I guess one can argue that the SOLs are not as true as the grades… I dunno…

            But all things equal – there does appear to be major disparities in the performance of the kids -at different schools – within the same school division – same administrators, same curriculum, same teaching policies, etc… and yet we see this huge difference.

            And it’s not just Fairfax.

            So far, I’ve not heard any real good explanations as to why.

            All this talk about changes to deal with “equity” – makes me wonder if that’s gonna fix these disparities between the schools – as well as the performance “gap”.

            I have no clue if the same thing happens in private schools since we do not know if their demographics are like public schools and if they are using a uniform standardized test.

          • James Wyatt Whitehead V

            Mr. Larry I am talking about make believe grade inflation. The last 4 or 5 years of my career I routinely inflated grades in the name of self preservation. I always did my homework on which kids parents were going to be a lot of trouble about grading. I always beat them to the punch. I rubbed my magic lamp and wha la an “A” appeared. You could not win with some parents. They had reputations and a long record of pushing and shoving for higher grades. They were going to crucify you over grades and teachers were not going to be supported. Lord help you if the race card, transgender card, or special ed card was in the mix. What else could I do?

          • James Wyatt Whitehead V

            The truth Mr. Larry. A number of parents and kids have figured it out. They have a full house now and teachers have a pair of twos. And they use it. That is the way modern education works. That number of parents and kids who have figured it out is only going to grow now. It was a crying shame to have two unwritten sets of grading practices but it had to be done to preserve my sanity. I had neither the mental nor emotional stamina to die on the grading cross time after time. 6 years ago Loudoun got a a new school board, new superintendent, and Briar Woods lost a great principal to retirement. It wasn’t this way just 6 years ago. So glad I got the last retirement parachute before the plane hit the ground. To be a great teacher you have to make a series of compromises to do that which you love, I could not make one more compromise. It was already a thousand too many.

  5. Jim, I had missed this one. I’ve been trying to track the relentless destruction of Virginia’s education system, but there is so much going on that I can’t keep up with it. I’m so glad that you have joined the fight.

    Under the guise of “equity and inclusion,” progressives are wrecking Virginia’s educational system. The consequences will fall hardest, of course, upon those without access to homeschooling, private school, or the ability to move to jurisdictions with good public schools — in other words, minorities and the poor. Educational disparities will get worse over time, not better.

    Sadly, the fallout will effect everyone, not just poor minorities. When we throw standards out the window, everyone loses.

    • “Under the guise of “equity and inclusion,” progressives are wrecking Virginia’s educational system.”

      Public k-12 schools in Virginia are now following the example of Virginia’s public colleges and universities. These k-12 Virginia schools are walking away from the education of their students. They are abandoning the education of their students by hiding the many chronic problems in their schools, throwing away all academic standards in and outside schools, and failing to enforce not only grades but also discipline in schools, while they poison academic curriculum in schools, nixing civil conduct in schools, rewarding and encouraging scofflaws.

      In so doing, public education in Virginia in rapidly becoming a wasteland for students, while it increasingly becomes a irresponsible high paying gig for senior administrators and senior teachers who are busily destroying the learning experience for their kids. Thus it’s becoming a mirror image of higher public education in Virginia, matching Virginia’s politics.

      This is pure evil, what is happening to Virginia’s schools, and their students.

      • My experience is that the public schools I went to in Virginia nearly 30 years ago were zoos, compared to the schools I went to in the state I lived in before. I believe much of that to be due to “low effort parenting”. For example, I didn’t see “Big Johnson” t-shirts at all until I moved to Virginia–then I saw quite a few kids wearing them at school. These days I wonder what kind of parents would let their kids wear those to school. (For those who don’t know, Big Johnson t-shirts are sexual innuendo).

    • Jim – do you think people will express their support/opposition by voting?

      If we presume that most are opposed – is that actually true?

      I think a solid majority do believe that we have racism and equity issues in the schools.


  6. If the United States lags behind many other countries in math and science, how does these policy changes help with that? How does fake learning help the kids themselves? Pretty soon the only thing American graduates will be able to do is work for CNN or the Post.

    “‘With standards, it’s not right or wrong,’ said Stacey Heltz, an assistant principal at Charlottesville High School. ‘[A student] might’ve gotten the final answer wrong, but as a teacher, I can see that the student really gets the concept and they might’ve made a calculation error.'”

    Last year, I went to a high school reunion. One of my math teachers was there. I wish I could have told her that she should have ignored my calculation errors many years ago.

    • “If the United States lags behind many other countries in math and science, how does these policy changes help with that?”

      After the 1950s, the US fell from number one in Verbal and math achievement in the world to number 24 in the world, according the Hirsch. The reasons are many. Many have been explained at length on this blog. Yet, we still refuse to learn from our obvious mistakes. We prefer keeping our heads in the sand where we also bury our chronic long term mistakes, hidden from view.


      Truth does not serve the rampant grievance and scapegoat and race baiting political culture and industry in America.

  7. The basic truth is that all of these policies will challenge the integrity of current and future teachers. The unmistakable message is that teachers are to grade everyone the same, and every one gets a trophy.

    No ethical teacher could do that except to finish a long career with the retirements they earned in better times.

    If we do not stop this, future teachers will have to choose, and the ones who choose teaching will be those who either do not understand the Hobson’s Choice they will face or embrace it. In neither case would any thinking person want those teachers in front of their kids.

  8. Pingback: Albemarle County’s Draft Grading Policy – Part 2 | Bacon's Rebellion

  9. HOMEWORK,, are you kidding me,,, Do they still assign Homework,,
    That’s a laugh…
    PS… I went to a prep school from 66 to 70, a military one,,,, We were essentially in lockdown 3 hrs a night 5 days a week (yes we were assigned homework on Friday, due on Monday)… and I always had plenty to keep me busy those 3 hours…
    Kids now a days have no idea!!!

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