Controversial 50% Grading Policy Gives Students Something For Nothing

In order to properly reflect student learning, FCPS issued a new grading policy. According to, The policy sets the lowest score for any possible assignment or test at 50 percent, even when students turn in no work. This policy makes it impossible for students to receive a ‘zero.’ Educators and Students are conflicted on whether this new grading system is helping or hurting our Longfellow community.

Many believe the policy benefits students by providing motivation. A

“Instead of working harder, the vast majority of students who get an F tend to withdraw, try less,” reported Edutopia.  

This is especially true when that F is zero.  

“I think that this policy helps students who have missing assignments because it is easier for them to raise their grades. Raising your grade from a zero to 100 is a lot harder than raising your grades from a 50 to a hundred,” stated 8th grader Niamh R. “It avoids students feeling overwhelmed,” she added.

On the other side, many argue that it does not provide much of an impact. 

“I mean, I’ve learned that students who do their assignments will do their assignments regardless of the policy,” asserted history teacher Jim Bermudez. “I don’t think it makes much of a difference; a zero and a fifty are both an F,” he said.

Another common opinion was to abolish the standard letter grading system as a whole.

 “The letter grading system is over a century old,” said Spanish and Latin teacher Kathryn Bognolo-Valentine. 

Many experts also agree with this. Thomas R. Guskey, an education professor at the University of Kentucky who has studied grading believes that students should get two grades: one that reflects whether a student has mastered the content and a second that assesses what he calls “process criteria.” Process Criteria include whether a student collaborates well, participates in class discussions, or turns in assignments on time. Mr. Guskey has tested his new grading system on many schools in Kentucky and it seemed to be successful. 

Not everyone supports Guskey’s two-part grading system, but there is agreement among educators that we should rid our school systems of letter grading.

Although the 50% grading policy is controversial, it is Fairfax County’s attempt to address some of the problems with grades, stress, and student performance.