Virginia Teachers Bristle at ‘Equity’ Proposal to Abolish Grades

Back view of elementary student raising arm in order to answer a questing during a class.
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Teachers in Arlington, Virginia, pushed back on their school district’s “equity” grading proposal, saying the lack of “accountability … will impact student learning and socio-emotional development and growth in a negative way.”

The Arlington School Board is considering a proposal that would allow “unlimited redoes and retakes on assignments” and no grades or late penalties on homework, among other things, as part of a mission to “implement more equitable grading practices,” according to ABC 7 News.

Lowering grading standards in the name of equity is interrelated with critical race theory, and is part of the ideology’s contention that “non-white people are somehow generally incapable members of society,” as Breitbart News reported.

In a letter sent to the school board, teachers from Wakefield High School said the changes would “result in the decline of high expectations and rigor in the classroom” continuing that, if implemented, the “accountability ‘piece’ of the learning process will exist in theory only.”

The Wakefield teachers say that there are different sides of a well-rounded education that would be left by the wayside with equity grading.

Just as important as writing, math, and science, is personal, social accountability because, “as students matriculate through high school, they also learn how to develop organizational, time and stress management skills and grow as responsible, civically engaged, and considerate young adults.” Deadlines, the teachers argue, are something that helps teach the skills the content of the assignment might not.

“We pride ourselves on providing useful constructive criticism for our students, analyzing and reflecting on major content and skill-based assignments and providing them with exemplary work from their classmates,” the teachers write. “We do not see how this practice can continue if the ‘timeliness of the completion’ is not considered in the submission and grading process.”

There would also be significant logistical problems and likely student abuse of the new system as well. “The potential certainly exists for a nightmare evaluating scenario for teachers, as submissions are delayed to suit students’ needs (and whims),” they wrote.

“More often than not, content and concepts lead to new content and concepts — in other words, the material we access in one week organically fosters the material we will access the following week,” the Wakefield teachers pointed out. “If students are able to manufacture their own sequence of submissions, it seems logical that doing so would hamper ‘mastery’ moving forward.”

The teachers also said that since not completing “formative” assignments portends negatively for the future “summative” assignments, the “accountability element” is necessary both for motivation and ensuring students “participate in the learning process consistently.”

“Students who exhibit reduced motivation to complete/submit formative work seem hardly likely to increase said motivation with the removal of grades,” they said, referencing the school district’s planned removal of extra credit. “In fact, students often are able to augment less-than-exemplary scores on summative assessments with successful completion of formative work.”

Suggesting that the new policy would be unfair to both students who turn in their work on time and students who do not turn it in at all, the teachers ask:

What message do these proposed policies send to students if they do not complete their work in a timely manner and still get 50% for their missing work? What message do these policies send to a student who met deadlines and received a lower grade than a student who ignored the deadline entirely?

They also pointed out that the actual content learned in high school is not the most important aspect of the learning process, but rather the habits and skills learned while grappling with the content, such timeliness, work ethic, and acquiring and synthesizing information.

“How do we reconcile these policy changes with our efforts to prepare students for the challenges of their post-secondary school lives–challenges which certainly involve deadlines as well as successful completion of assigned tasks?” they ask.

While the school district is eyeing the changes for “equity” purposes, the teachers point out that the new policy would actually exacerbate inequity.

If the school district decides to do away with accountability and rigor in the name of equity, the teachers point out, families with access to more resources can fill the vacuum by creating their own “challenging and engaging academic experiences for their children.” Families that do not have such resources, like access to tutors, “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.”

Breccan F. Thies is a reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @BreccanFThies.

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