- Report Published -
|Alteration of Grades in Public Schools|
|Department of Education|
|HJR 195 (Regular Session, 1994)|
|House Joint Resolution No. 195 directed that the Department of Education study the alteration of grades in the public schools. The study was to determine specifically:|
1) local school division policies and practices regarding student evaluation and security of academic assessment and grades;
2) the frequency of an motivation for grade alteration;
3) any legal or policy concerns regarding the issue; and
4) the need to establish a statewide policy addressing the alteration of grades in the public schools.
To gain information about these areas, the study committee decided to conduct two independent surveys. The first was a survey of central office administrators conducted via telephone who were asked to answer three questions dealing with grade alteration. These questions are contained in Appendix B.
The school divisions contacted were chosen by means of a stratified random sample of all school divisions in the Commonwealth. The strata used in the sample guaranteed that divisions selected were representative of the entire population in terms of geographic location (from the Tidewater area, to the Southwest, to Northern Virginia, and areas in between), economic background (from the highest composite index to the lowest), and political type (urban, suburban, and rural). Eighteen school divisions were chosen. Study committee members contacted by telephone the person in the division who was most knowledgeable about "grade alteration," as defined in HJR #195. In order to ensure the accuracy of the information provided, confidentially was guaranteed to the respondents.
The second survey involved school teachers in 28 school divisions from around the state. These school divisions were selected using the same stratified random sampling system, except that the constraint was imposed that no school division would be selected for participation in both surveys. As a consequence of this decision, data were collected from a total of 46 school divisions.
The teachers were contacted by means of a mail survey which posed three questions and provided for an open-ended response. The three questions are contained in Appendix E. The questionnaires were mailed to 345 teachers. All replies were anonymous.
The information gathered from the surveys supplies a reasonable assessment of the frequency of grade alteration around the state. Telephone contacts were made with 18 central office personnel and replies were received from 208 (60.3%) teachers. Statistically, the information collected from the teachers can be shown to be within about seven percentage points (plus or minus) of the values that would be found if all of the teachers in the state were contacted.
The survey responses indicated that grades are sometimes altered for a variety of reasons. Chief among these are: sports eligibility; student progress; parental pressure; and teacher standards (failure rate too high).
Although grade alteration in the public schools of Virginia does occur, it is not a common practice. Reports from respondents supported this conclusion. The research also supported the conclusion that grade alterations that do occur are not division wide occurrences.
Even though the respondents to the survey supported the conclusion that grade alteration in the public schools is not a common practice, it should be noted that under certain circumstances grade alteration may be appropriate. For example, it may be appropriate to alter a grade if it is found to be in error or there is a local policy that allows a student to appeal a grade and the appeal is upheld. In any event, as stipulated in the Constitution of Virginia, such practice "...has always been, within the exclusive jurisdiction of the local school boards and not within the jurisdiction of the state Board of Education."
Based on the results of the surveys, the study committee concluded that a statewide policy addressing the alteration of grades in the public schools is not needed. However, the study committee suggests that the Board of Education acknowledge the awareness of the practice in some school divisions and encourage local school boards to develop or refine procedures to ensure the integrity of fair and consistent grading practices. These procedures should become part of the administrative manual containing school policies and procedures in each school division.