By Victoria (Vicky) Manning 

Candidate for Virginia Beach School Board

Almost two years ago, I discovered radical changes to the grading practices in Va Beach secondary schools. Teachers were being told not to give zeros for work not turned in, not to deduct points for work turned in late and test retakes were being encouraged

Homework also could not be a factor in the grade. When I first approached the school board about my concerns, they were not aware this was taking place and my concerns seemed to be dismissed. I continued pushing back against these practices that lowered standards, removed accountability, and created more work for our teachers. 

After a year of forums, surveys, and committee meetings, the Superintendent’s office put forth more radical recommendations which included removing the percentage grading scale. I continued to press the Board and rallied the community to have their voice heard.

New guidelines were recently presented at a workshop on Aug 3. These recommendations do allow for homework completion to be a factor of the grade—up to 10%.  [Click Read More below for rest of the story]

The new proposal appears to give teachers the choice on how they will grade students; however, once the teachers make their initial recommendations it must go through 4 other committees/administrators for input and review before the final product is revealed.

Will the teacher’s initial recommendation really be the final product?

This process must take place every year and is to be done by each individual secondary school and each department within each school.

The Board’s initial instruction to the Superintendent a year ago was to provide grading consistency throughout our secondary schools. If these new recommendations are passed, not only will every school have different grading practices, each department within each school could have different grading practices. 

On Sept 7, the school board will be voting on the new “regulation” created that gives the Superintendent authority to determine grading guidelines.

However, the specific guidelines that have been developed will not be made public prior to the vote. In summary, based on the draft information that I have received, these new guidelines state that teachers may not initially assign a zero and must make every effort to get the student to turn in their work before assigning a zero.

Teachers may treat this as late work. Teachers should give the student an “I” for incomplete rather than a zero. Regarding late work, it states: when an assignment is not completed by the due date, teachers shall exercise their judgement to adjust deadlines as necessary, guidelines do not state if teachers are allowed to deduct points. How will the teachers hold the students accountable if they can’t give them a zero or deduct points? Deadlines will mean nothing. 

The guidelines also state that “grades may be calculated by any of a variety of methods to include.... different measures of central tendency”. Mode is one of those measures (the number which appears most often in a set of numbers).

For example, if a student has the following grades: 90, 80, 85, 70, 70, 70, the student’s overall grade would be a 70. Also, if a student has the following grades, they could still be on the honor roll, A, B, B, C, C. In my day, the honor roll meant getting A’s and B’s. 

Students will still be allowed to retake tests with no limit to how often test retakes can occur. The language does allow each school to determine how test retakes will be handled, but this will again cause inconsistency throughout the division.

Since these grading recommendations are “site-based”, consider this scenario: Middle School “A” will not allow zeros to be given and will encourage test retakes, but Middle School “B” will allow teachers to enforce accountability standards, they will allow zeros when necessary and will limit test retakes. Will the students at school “A” have inflated grades and an unfair advantage over school “B” when applying for high school academy programs? 

From 2010 through 2015, graduation rates have increased in all of Va Beach’s 11 high schools. However, SAT scores have decreased in all but one of those same schools.

Does this indicate that more of our students are graduating but with less knowledge?

Students are going to try to reach the goals that are set for them. If we set the bar low, that is the level they will attempt to reach. We need to challenge our students to be the best they can be and I have confidence they will reach for that goal. The administration does not plan to publicize these new guidelines and a vote will occur soon on this new proposal. Our community must fight against the “everyone gets a trophy” mindset. 

Currently, it appears that only 1 school board member will be voting against the Superintendent’s regulation on Sept 7. After fighting against this issue for the last 2 years, I decided to run for the office of School Board. Our students need to be taught life skills in order to be prepared for the work force and/or college.

Our schools are heading down the wrong path. School Board elections are in November. Be sure to pay attention how the incumbents vote on this topic. Remember that the success of our schools affects our entire community! 

Contact Vicky Manning at   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it