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It may come as a surprise that people other than parents read the list of A and B students printed in the paper.

But as Lake Monticello resident Jack Byers looked at the latest list, he noticed something he questioned.

“There are an extraordinarily high number of students getting As,” Byers said. “By my count, one grade level had a third of the class with all As. Either we’ve got a bunch of geniuses or something’s amiss.”

Brenda Gilliam, executive director in charge of curriculum instruction and finance, said the Fluvanna school system doesn’t examine how many students have top grades.

“We do not analyze data relative to grade distributions and the percentage of students earning honor roll or straight As,” Gilliam wrote in an email.

Byers wondered what constitutes an A in Fluvanna schools. He is familiar with Fairfax schools where his children and grandchildren attended.

“You have to get a 94 to get an A in Fairfax,” Byers said. “I feel confident a third of Fairfax students don’t get all As.”

Gilliam wrote that Fluvanna grades on a 10-point scale, and has for about 10 years. That means any score from 90 to 100 is an A, 80 to 89 is a B and so on. The lowest D grade is 65.

“This scale was put in place to align with surrounding school divisions, Piedmont Virginia Community College, and Blue Ridge Virtual Governor’s School (BRVGS),” she wrote. “We also added weighted credits for dual enrollment, advanced placement (AP), and BRVGS classes at the time the scale was changed. The grading scale was revised after a thorough study with feedback from all of our stakeholders.”

Many education experts have written about grading: how different school systems have different standards and the effect it has on getting into college. If a student from one school system has all As, but the score to get that A is different than in a different school system, the student may not be prepared for a rigorous college curriculum.

Gilliam pointed out Fluvanna schools has outside indicators to back up the success of its students:

  • Fluvanna is one of only 22 out of 132 school divisions in the state that has had all of its schools fully accredited for the past three years;
  • Fluvanna’s high school has been recognized three times by U.S. News and World Report with silver and bronze medals for being an outstanding high school; and
  • A review of the class of 2017 indicates that the average combined SAT scores exceed state and national averages; the on-time graduation rate is above 95 percent; and 54.9 percent of students who took an AP test scored 3 or higher.

“We have worked with our teachers, particularly at the secondary level, to develop common grading practices [such as] having the same weight for tests, quizzes, essays, homework, et cetera,” Gilliam wrote. “The particular focus for this was to ensure there was equity with the same course regardless of the instructor. Teachers have also been developing grading rubrics [and] expectations for assignments that are more subjective.”

Each school has a professional learning community, Gilliam wrote, where among other topics they discuss grading practices and protocols.

“Administrators are a part of these meetings,” she wrote. “We do want to ensure that there is equity in our practices while giving teachers freedom within their classroom to do what is best for their students and use their professional judgment. This means that there is a great deal of dialogue around grading practices and procedures.”

Everyone involved with instructing students knows it is a team effort that includes the family and community, Gilliam wrote.

“Although we continuously review our data and look for ways that we can improve, we are proud of the success demonstrated through outside indicators such as those listed above,” she wrote. “More importantly, these outcomes require the success of all students and the commitment of our staff and community to education in Fluvanna.”