Grading to Support Student Learning

Report Cards to Clearly Communicate Achievement and Progress

Grades should support student learning, measure student achievement and give feedback on specific areas of strength and weakness. As a school division, we’re continuing the process of assessing our grading system and revising report cards to more accurately report student progress — both strategies identified in the Design for Excellence 2020, the strategic innovation plan of Chesterfield County Public Schools.

A grading practices committee made up of students, teachers, parents and administrators was charged with studying this issue. Recently, the Chesterfield County School Board reviewed recommendations from the grading committee, suggested changes and announced plans for a public engagement session with students, staff members and parents to receive additional input.

The school division is moving toward standards-based grading, which measures a student’s performance against a standard — providing a more accurate measure. Such a transition would also help make grading practices more consistent from teacher to teacher and from school to school.

The grading practices committee also reviewed a 10-point grading scale as an alternative to our current 6-point scale for grades 3-12. Many school divisions in Virginia and across the country have made this switch in recent years. The proposed 10-point scale is based on the College Board’s grading scale. Most colleges and many high schools use this scale. The proposed scale is expected to make our students more competitive for college admissions and scholarships, and it should also serve as a motivator that will increase student attendance and enrollment in more-rigorous course offerings.

Subsequently, a team of school division staff members worked to redefine expectations for student report cards. Current report cards have not been revised or updated for several decades. They represent how we used to teach, learn and assess and do not take into account many of the 21st-century skills that our students are learning today.

Any updates to grading practices and report cards would go into effect for the 2014-15 school year. Changes would not be retroactive. Professional development for teachers and necessary logistical changes to documentation and reporting systems would occur during the 2013-14 school year and through teacher iLearn Days.

Changes to Grading Practices

The primary purpose of grades is communication of student achievement on specified standards. Standards include content and skills. They include Chesterfield County Public Schools standards; state, national and international standards; and any additional standards specified by the teacher. Grades shall support learning by accurately representing student achievement and providing students with feedback.

The main audience for grade communication is the student and the student’s family. For high school, prospective colleges and employers are also important audiences.

Teachers must be able to relate all graded work to specific standards, and they will use professional judgment in selecting, managing and assessing student assignments. Teachers need to be able to clearly explain and justify the grade determination process. Weighting and categorization of grades shall be written and clearly communicated to students and parents.

Consensus and consistency are expected within subject areas and grade levels in the grading practices followed. It is an expectation that teachers have a sufficient number of grades for each category so that one low (or high) grade does not skew the reporting on a student’s academic ability.

A 10-point grading scale is proposed to create a level playing field for Chesterfield County students, bringing our school division in line with other large school divisions in Virginia. Students in grades K-2 will be graded on a 4-point scale. Students receiving a 1 are performing below standard; students receiving a 4 are those whose performance exceeds the standard.

For the first time, students will also be assessed on performance related to work-related skills. Parents will receive feedback on a student’s work on critical thinking, responsibility, collaboration, communication, self-management and technology literacy.

Please note that the new grading scale is not retroactive; historical grades will not be recalculated.

Click here to learn more about proposed changes to grading practices.
Click here for Memo 49 to the School Board on changes to grading practices.

Changes to Report Cards

The purpose of a report card is to accurately and clearly communicate student achievement to parents, based on Chesterfield County Public Schools objectives for each grade level. The report card is intended to inform parents and guardians about learning successes and areas in need of improvement.

School division leaders do not believe that the current report card structure provides parents with a precise, detailed portrait of a student’s understanding, progress and performance. Through a proposed new report card, students in grades 3-12 would receive a letter grade for their work in a subject and then receive ratings of 1-4 on subject-specific objectives within the content areas. For example, a student’s ability to apply word knowledge when reading will be assessed separately. In addition, teachers will be able to indicate a child’s reading level as above, on or below reading level.

The goal is to provide parents with a clearer understanding of their student’s strengths and weaknesses and areas where parents can provide additional support at home.

Report cards will also measure student progress on obtaining 21st-century skills and give parents information about student progress in the development of critical thinking, collaboration, communication and technological literacy skills.

  • Click here to learn more about proposed changes to report cards.
  • Click here for draft samples of what K-5 report cards might look like, depending on how the new student information system formats them.
  • Click here for a draft sample of what a secondary report card might look like.

We Want to Hear From You

Chesterfield County Public Schools offered the opportunity for the public to provide feedback on the 10-point grading scale last winter. Based on that feedback, the formal proposal was developed.

Now, the School Board is seeking input on proposed changes to grading practices and report cards.

  • Click here to provide feedback to the School Board and superintendent.

The School Board has also scheduled a public engagement session on grading practices and report cards. Students, parents, staff members and community residents are invited to attend the Oct. 16 public engagement session 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Fulghum Center, 4003 Cogbill Road. (Please note: This is a date change because the original date conflicted with the school division’s annual marching band exhibition.)