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Grades in Loudoun County are on the rise

A grade distribution of Loudoun County high schools for the years from 2007-2008 to 2012-2013. - Courtesy/LCPS
According to a grade distribution report from Loudoun County Public Schools, high schools across the county handed out 10 percent more As and Bs last year (81 percent), than it did five years prior, during the 2007-2008 school year (71 percent).

Loudoun Valley has handed out the highest percentage of As and Bs in the county.

Specifically data shows that more than 85 percent of the course grades handed out to students at Loudoun Valley High School are As or Bs, which compares to 83 percent at Briar Woods.

From the 2007-2008 school year to last year the percentage of As students at Loudoun Valley earned jumped from 37 percent to 54 percent, a 17 percent increase.

That compares to a 13 percent increase in As at Freedom and a 12 percent increase in As at Broad Run and Loudoun County high schools.

Over the last eight months Loudoun Valley High School administration had been accused of pressuring teachers into boosting grades.

School Superintendent Dr. Edgar Hatrick said in a letter to Loudoun Valley that many of those claims were "not borne out by fact."

The average GPA has risen every year since 2007 for every school in the county, except for Park View High School.

Park View High School's average GPA saw a .04 point drop from the 2007-2008 school year to the 2012-2013 school year.

It also appears that a change in grading to a 10-point scale caused the largest year-over-year boost in grades for most schools.

SAT scores, a separate standardized measure of academic performance also used in the admissions process, has risen less than 1 percent for the school district over the same period of time.

A nationwide trend

The mean grade point average in the United States went from 2.77 in 1990 to 3.1 in 2009, according to the Department of Education's High School Transcript Study.

That's the difference between a C and a B.

A breakdown from U.S. News and World Report mentioned that, "ACT estimates the average GPA inflation was about .25 on a scale of 4.0 between 1991 and 2003, though the 2005 study’s authors believe that number understates the actual amount of grade inflation."

Department of Education officials conduct the High School Transcript study every few years, and the last such study was conducted in 2009.


Thank you Mr. Knight for you comments and insight.  I appreciate the sacrifice you attempted to make, switching careers to teach.

I will challenge one of you positions.  I urge the families of Loudoun not to support any more bond referendums that support the building of new schools.  Since the BOS has predetermined the tax rates for the next many years to be flat or declining, they have already decide not to fully fund school operations.  This year, teacher are loosing pay and benefits, jobs are cut, and programs are eliminated.  If the BOS will not allow us to pay appropriately for the running of the schools we have now, we should not build new ones, only to have them underfunded as well.

Ex-teacher calls for real education reform

On Nov. 8, you’ll be asked to approve Loudoun’s School Bond Referendum. As I resign from Potomac Falls High School today, I urge you to consider your children’s education in Loudoun County.

Our schools are failing. As a career switcher with an engineering degree from MIT and a law degree from Georgetown, I felt perfectly competent – and really excited – to teach high school physics. Sadly, the last two years have shown me that teaching high school has little to do with teaching. The modern teacher spends only a minority of her time actually teaching the subject matter; the majority is spent “re-teaching” and “remediating” students who weren’t mentally awake the first time, grading tests and homework, arguing with students about their grades and conducting conferences with helicopter parents who obsess over their children’s grades.

And sometimes those parents can get downright abusive. I regularly deal with parents who are angry at me for their children’s nonperformance. One mother accused me of not caring for my students because her son had earned a C in my class. Really. And the insults never end. Literally four days ago I received an email from an irate parent that ended, “I’m glad you’re resigning.” The same day another member of our department cried after receiving an abusive parent email. Yes, cried. When parents feel at liberty to verbally assault teachers over grade disagreements, it’s time to re-assess grading in our schools.

By the way, most parents are cooperative. Many of them are even kind. I keep a folder of the cards and supportive emails I’ve received from parents over the past couple years. But a few of them are simply contemptuous. They are the ones who demand parent-teacher meetings to discuss why a homework assignment was graded at a C instead of a B. They are the ones who pester teachers about extra credit and test retakes. They are the ones who berate and criticize teachers when their children are failing. They are the ones who invariably defend their children no matter how irresponsible, disrespectful, or rude their children have been acting.

The apple does not fall far from the tree. Across the board, and without exception, the nicest compl9ments always come from parents of the hardest-working and most well-behaved kids. Also, without exception, the most derogatory and manipulative insults come from parents of out-of-control kids who treat teachers as enemies and objects. My very first parent contact came from the father of a girl who spent most of class rolling her eyes at me and simultaneously doing none of the classwork. The father called to complain that, while he was doing his daughter’s homework (that’s right), he became outraged that I would expect his daughter to use trigonometry to solve physics problems. I calmly and professionally explained that I’d taught the students in class how to solve such problems. On retrospect, I should have just hung up the phone.

Sadly, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. The happy parents and students are quiet while the mean, offensive ones fill up our principal’s inbox with angry notes and diatribes – occasionally even lawsuit threats. Teachers beware. You know that obnoxious, disrespectful little brat who won’t do his homework but feels entitled to an A? You can be sure he’s got an obnoxious, disrespectful parent who feels entitled to unlimited parent-teacher conferences until you give that child an A. Sadly, your choice is to give in or take the abuse. This is not how public education should be.

Parents, it’s time to speak up. If you don’t, the toxic grade-obsessed parents will continue to run the show – including your child’s education. Here’s what you can do. First and foremost, approve Loudoun’s School Bond Referendum, because good teachers won’t work for free. Next, write emails to your kid’s teachers. Praise them for what they’re doing right. Thank them for doing a hard job at modest pay. Not every teacher is fantastic, but they’re all doing the best they can for your kids given the circumstances they’re dealt.

Third, stop worrying about grades (and don’t harass teachers about them). I get it. You want your kid to go to UVA or Virginia Tech. Strangely, these colleges still consider grades in the admissions process. (Colleges of the future will only look at comprehensive entrance exams as grade inflation inevitably turns every kid into a straight-A student. And if you don’t believe me, note that 2/3 of Potomac Falls’ student body is on the Honor Roll. Yep – two thirds.) I understand that colleges care about grades, so you want your kid to get good grades. But this singular focus on grades is handicapping, not helping, your child. Without intending to sound pretentious, I know what I’m talking about. I’ve won over $1 million in college scholarships and have been admitted to several Ivy League colleges. I’ve also written a book on the topic which is available on Amazon.com or free on request as an electronic copy.

In the long run, what’s far more valuable to your child than grades … is competence. The competition for grades is killing our kids’ natural curiosity and desire to learn. When we stop worrying so much about grades, we’ll produce a generation of children who are highly productive, creative, and interesting. If we continue on our current path, we’ll produce a generation of straight-A automatons full of useless facts who can’t solve their own real-life problems. If you’re worried about the cost of Social Security now, imagine a nation full of uncreative, entitled individuals who have memorized all the state capitals but don’t know how to do anything useful on their own.

Finally, we need a change of guards. Our current superintendent, Ed Hatrick, is a devoted politician who is good at making lots of official speeches and keeping his job – but not at designing a school system that produces curious, productive, responsible, and hardworking citizens. Ironically, it’s not his fault. It’s the fault of the vocal minority of parents who won’t allow him to make useful changes to the status quo. Once again, parents, it’s time to make your voice heard. Write the School Board and tell them you’re ready for a school system that holds its students accountable, that won’t put up with abusive parents, and that allows teachers to spend their day teaching, not arguing with students and parents about grades.

Andrew F. Knight, J.D.
Former Loudoun County teacher

Standardized Tests are inaccurate and a waste of time. A much more logical approach to gauge students is by their “daily/weekly” running average of Classwork and Tests which clearly shows exactly how well a student is doing. And since the work students are doing is already standardized, a kid in LCPS and one in Richmond City Schools can accurately be compared against each other. Far in excess of a “spot” test once a year (if that).

There is nothing the SOLs have taught us that we couldn’t figure out by looking at the cumulative work/tests of students in schools.

Standardized test tell us nothing except how well teachers teach fact sheets for the tests. Common core and standardized tests are why our education system in America is falling behind.

Keep digging. As a parent, I asked for this type of data and the administration refused to give it to me.  This is why we need standardized tests so we can tell how far above average everyone’s kids are.

The followup question to ask: how have AP scores changed over time in each of these schools? Also note the number of AP tests taken each year since some years the schools paid for the exam, other years they coerced the parents to pay in exchange for a 1.0 boast in GPA and this past year parents only paid if it was worth $80.

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