Fairfax Board Leans Toward New Grading Scale

By Michael Alison Chandler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A majority of Fairfax County School Board members yesterday indicated their desire to ease the county's tough grading scale, a sign that thousands of parents who seek change might win a victory.

"There appears to be consensus that we need to change the grading scale," said board member Kathy L. Smith (Sully). But members disagreed on what the new scale should look like. They plan to ask Superintendent Jack D. Dale to research alternatives and push for a change by next school year.

The 12-member board plans to vote on the grading policy Jan. 22.

A groundswell of parents have urged the school system, which requires a 94 for an A and a 64 to pass, to adopt the more broadly used practice of giving an A for 90 or better and setting 60 as the passing score. They also have argued that Fairfax should add extra points to the grade-point averages of those who take honors courses or college-level classes. They maintain that the current policy puts students at a disadvantage when they apply to colleges and for scholarships.

On Jan. 2, Dale recommended changing how the school system calculates GPAs but not the grading scale.

In a work session yesterday, board members listed advantages of changing the scale and advantages of keeping it. The list of reasons offered for change was twice as long. For example, members said a change would align Fairfax with other school systems and lessen parents' confusion. But an advantage to keeping the scale, some said, would be that students would work harder for better grades.

Some parents applauded yesterday's development.

"The School Board understands that parents have lost confidence in the grading policy," said Catherine Lorenze, a spokeswoman for Fairgrade, a group advocating change.

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