Good Idea? Virginia High School Does Away with "F" Grades


A high school in Virginia has done away with the "F", opting to give failing students an "incomplete" instead. Some onlookers quoted in the Washington Post wondered if this was yet another example of us coddling our students.

The report cards that arrived home late last week showed few failing grades but instead marks of "I" for incomplete, indicating that students still owe their teachers essential work. They will get Fs only if they fail to complete assignments and learn the content in the months to come.

The change in educational philosophy is intended to encourage students to continue working toward mastery of material rather than accepting a failing grade and moving on. Schools throughout the Washington area and the nation have made other moves to improve grading methods, especially as they affect low-performing students, though few have gone so far as West Potomac High, in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County.

"It's a huge paradigm shift," said principal Clifford Hardison, who recalls that when year-end grades were tallied last June at West Potomac, he counted nearly 2,000 Fs, with a large group of teens racking up more than one failed course.

The new strategy has critics - both within West Potomac and beyond - who fear that reducing the possibility of outright failure gives teachers less leverage while also giving students unrealistic expectations about the adult world they soon will enter. Some worry that the reordering of deadlines and test opportunities will also affect the transcripts of the college-bound, giving some students an advantage.

I agree with the principal at the high school and others -- what IS the point of the "F"? It only permanently mars a student's transcript, most likely, a student who really needs any boost whether it's grades or self-esteem. Also, I disagree that giving students an "F" prepares them for the real world. If anything, getting an "incomplete", repeating coursework, or just not making it to the next grade level resembles the real world more than getting a scrawled red "F" on a paper.

What do you all think? What is grading like in your child's school?


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