‘Fairfax County Paging Kimberly Reicks!’ As Schools Stealth-Install “Equity Grading”

In the previous post, Ethics Alarms extolled appropriately-involved Iowa parent Kimberly Riecks as an Ethics Hero for getting in the faces of an irresponsible school board. Let’s hope there are some Kimberly Klones in Fairfax County, Virginia, my back yard, because internal Fairfax County Public Schools communications, obtained by local parents through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that officials have secretly implemented “equitable grading” at schools across the district.

[In the “Animal House” clip above, Otter represents public school administrators and Flounder stands for Fairfax County parents.]

“Equitable grading” is exactly what it sounds like. It is a progressive, social justice, crack-brained approach to education in pursuit of “antiracism” and to battle “institutional bias” despite there being no substantive research that supports such measures as anything but destructive to learning. The district’s officials denied the initiative when a suspicious parent inquired, but it has been proceeding in the shadows.

The Fairfax County District used federal coronavirus relief funds (hmmmmm..) to purchase a book for teachers titled “Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms,” though “equitable grading” has been creeping into classrooms since 2015. It picked up speed while the schools were shuttered due to Wuhan virus panic. “Equitable grading” removes grade penalties for late assignments and in class misconduct, and also allows students to retake tests and redo assignments, often on an unlimited basis. This is all a reaction to the continuing lag of minority students (except Asian-Americans—it’s a mystery!), especially blacks, in school achievement.

Since educators can’t figure out how to bring that group’s grades into the range of white students the old fashioned way–teach good study habits, hold them to high standards, recruit parents into providing a home culture conducive to learning and the love of it—the new approach, aka woke desperation, is to stop penalizing students for the counter-productive and toxic habits and behavior that have kept them failing.

Equitable grading advocates the elimination of “zero grades” by using a 50-100 scale. With that scale, a student cannot receive a grade lower than 50, even if the assignment was never submitted, thereby creating a much higher grade floor and enabling students to achieve passing grades while doing less work. In other words, fake the grading and pretend doing nothing is, in fact, doing something.

Brilliant! It’s like eliminating stupidity by giving everyone with an under 100 IQ score an extra 50 points. (Or, as the mad leader of the revolutionaries in “Bananas” declares once he gains power, “Everyone under the age of sixteen, is sixteen!”) This approach has all sorts of wonderful applications. Take climate change! Just automatically add minus 5 degrees to all temperature readings, and the problem is solved!

This is a textbook example of how really bad ideas spread and wreck lives. It all oozed from the undeserved credibility the “experts” ( as in “ideologues”) like Joe Feldman received from school officials who were looking for a quick and easy solution to what is a complex and long-term problem.

Feldman, the author of “Grading for Equity,” expounded in a 2019 interview with Harvard Ed Magazine in 2019 about how “equitable grading” had three laudable goals: “accuracy, bias-resistance, and intrinsic motivation.” “Grading practices must counteract institutional biases that have historically rewarded students with privilege and punished those without, and also must protect student grades from our own implicit biases,” he said. “Our grading must stop using points to reward or punish, but instead should teach students the connection between means of learning and the ends — how doing homework is valuable not because of how many points the teacher doles out, but because those actions improve a student’s learning.”

Ramalamadingdong! And how, exactly, will students learn to, for example, do homework if there are no rewards for it and no penalties for blowing it off?Oh, I’m sure it will all work out somehow because our educators have the very best of intentions.

The email trove shows that school officials were implementing this policy even as they were denying it to parents. One email to outgoing Superintendent Scott Brabrand, sent on June 14 of 2022, the FCPS High School Principals Association said that “in 2015, FCPS Instructional Services began to renovate our grading system to be more reflective of standards of equity in grading,” which the association said “made advances” in the work of achieving equity in grading, an effort they said was further advanced during the pandemic.

“The pandemic forced us to move forward an even stronger commitment to equity for our students with the unilateral implementation of a revised late-work policy that recognized the need to help students with their school-home balance, the removal of the zero and the implementation of a 50-100 point scale,” the association said. The Principals Association went on to state that it had committed to “a 3-year plan of school-level implementation which will the fourth year with all high schools in FCPS having equitable grading practices.”

None of which parents had approved or knew about. Now that the truth is out (about this scheme, anyway…what else have these crypto-Marxists been hiding?) the Fairfax County Parents Association is not pleased, saying that the “equitable grading” plan

…sounds like another unresearched experiment being run on our kids that is the product of a discussion where opposing views were shut out and interest groups citing thin empirical evidence reached a consensus. When you discard points and grades, you also discard objective measures of learning, thereby allowing people to claim learning has happened when it has not. It once again raises the question of whether FCPS is committed to providing students with a high-quality, rigorous education, or whether their goal is simply making it look like students are receiving a high-quality, rigorous education.

Wait…there’s a “question”?

The other troubling thing is the concerted effort to avoid letting parents know that a change in grading has occurred or is occurring. If the new grading system was so spectacular, one would think a school system would not hesitate to share the information with parents.

Ah, but you uncredentialed, doubtlessly racist and deplorable little people know nothing of how to educate, instruct and indoctrinate your young ones!

In the end, the responsibility for this societal disaster must be shared between the educational professionals who have proven unworthy of the public’s trust and the apathetic, naive, inattentive parents who so carelessly offered that trust.

Now what?

10 thoughts on “‘Fairfax County Paging Kimberly Reicks!’ As Schools Stealth-Install “Equity Grading”

  1. White liberals are on a sacred mission to “save” black people—whether they want to be saved or nor.
    White liberals are blinded by a vision of their Promised Land, a sort of cross bw John Lennon’s “Imagine” and the United Colors of Benetton, where all tribes are equal in all ways and where no one from a Protected Victim class ever gets their feelings hurt or hears rhe word “No.”
    In pursuit of their sacred vision, they are willing to lie, cheat, hide their plans even from parents, lower any standard, cancel any test, denounce any person, place or thing (living or dead), and basically take a steamroller to any inherited idea, practice or institution.
    Like all fanatics who get a taste of power, they will do a great deal of damage until someone or something manages to dethrone them.

    • I seriously question whether they’ve even managed to convince themselves that they’re “saving black people”. That’s the surface rationale, of course, but any thinking person must immediately understand that any grading system designed to hide poor performance is useless. So, as objective individual measures of ability are eliminated one by one, people are left to play the odds based on group outcomes. This works in favor of the current upper class, camouflaging even their most useless offspring in a herd of high achievers. The young black math genius in a poor neighborhood, on the other hand, gets folded into the convicts and welfare recipients.

      But more immediately, it absolves people working in education from having any sort of deliverables or accountability. The numbers say the kids are doing just fine, and everything is equal and equitable, because the numbers are designed so that they can say nothing else. So they get to enjoy their little sinecure, while their class and connections help secure the same for their own children, even the slackers and the window-lickers.

      • “any grading system designed to hide poor performance is useless.”

        Not to Lefty; it furthers a despicable agenda designed to siphon off their crushing White Lefty Guilt.

        “deliverables or accountability. ”

        Those…um…externalities positively SCREAM RAYcist Paternalistically Systemic Intersectional Fragility, don’t they……?

      • What remains unchanged are teacher’s salary & time off, union coffers/influence, gutless admins, and criminal parental apathy.
        Jeepers, seems like the goals and priorities here are just a wee-bit skewed.

        Why not really streamline things (inthenameofequity) and simply assign all students a grade at the beginning of each term. The higher the melanin count the higher the grade and so forth. That way the students have important utility in making up for historical injustice and can graduate knowing they made a difference. Or something.

  2. Every day, I grow closer to joining those calling for our public-school systems, (most of them at least) to be figuratively burned to the ground. I find parental apathy appalling, but the betrayal of public trust by these officials (again and again and again) is unforgiveable. Maybe we should paraphrase Cicero the Censor at every opportunity, “Publica schola delenda est!”

  3. It is funny in a sad sort of way.

    In the time of slavery, it was illegal to teach a slave to read.

    Now, they want to make it legal NOT to teach black people to read.

    -Jut

  4. Obviously, the whole idea of “equitable grading” is precisely the opposite of what it claims to be, and it founded on the fallacious argument that “privilege” is grounded purely on race… as if the white first-generation students who have made up a significant percentage of the students in my classrooms over the years have access to this privilege, but Malia and Sasha Obama (for example) need a little extra help.

    But I’d make two points. First, the idea that lowering standards as means of being able to claim success is a time-honored tradition for pols of both parties, especially in terms of education policy. Here in Texas, for example, there’s a lot of pressure from Austin to retain and graduate students, whether they deserve a degree (or even to be in college to begin with) or not. The total semester hours required to graduate has dropped by 10 since I’ve been here, and there was a recent initiative to force state universities to accept for upper-division credit courses taken at the lower-division level at a junior college.

    Also, university departments not only couldn’t require of their majors more than a certain amount of hours at the lower division level, but had to waive prerequisites for upper-division courses if a student had taken x-number of courses at a juco. All this, of course, from a state government dominated by the GOP. To be fair, the Republicans want to lend a helping hand to lazy and stupid students of all demographies; the Dems are more discriminatory.

    The other point want to make is that modified versions of some of the other ideas mentioned here are, I think, reasonable. For example, back in the Dark Ages when I was in grad school, I was a grader and discussion leader for an introductory course taught by one of the best professors I’ve ever known. He required all students to get a 90 on a terms quiz. He had some sort of system to randomize something like 1000 questions; 100 would appear on a given quiz.

    You probably couldn’t pass the quiz until about week 4, but you could take it once a week for the rest of the semester if you had to. The average of all scores was what was factored into the final grade. The idea was that he wanted everyone to understand what he was talking about. Yes, it was better to score well the first time, but better late than never.

    He also had us penalize late papers, but no passing paper, regardless of how late it was submitted, would score less than a 40. That’s not passing, but it did encourage students to do the work, eventually. Again, better late than never. Speaking as someone who got an extension on both of my current writing projects, I like this philosophy.

    I also used a 4-point grading system (A=4, B=3, etc.) instead of a percentage system in most of my courses. This effectively made a 0 as good as a 57, but I didn’t want one really bad test score to doom a student for the entire course. Students did have to write the paper or take the test or whatever, however; failure to do so actually subtracted points from the final tally.

    I guess what I’m saying is that, other than the obviously discriminatory stuff (other than that, Mrs. Lincoln…), there are at least the seeds of reasonable pedagogy is some of this. Taken to extremes, yes, but I do worry a bit about babies and bathwater.

  5. My dear Dad, retired in Shenandoah County, got involved in local politics when the County tried to institute a public school-wide system of “pass/fail” grading. He stood up at a County meeting with just one comment: “This is a disservice to our kids. The world is NOT pass/fail! And eventually they’ll have to live in that world. Just enough is not enough, is it?”

    I don’t know what the Shenandoah finally decided, but I was proud of him then.

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