Teachers in Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools were required to undergo professional development training on equity grading that includes a slideshow on responding to people who oppose equity initiatives.
The syllabus of the training and a slideshow were obtained by parent activist organization Parents Defending Education and shared with the Washington Examiner and provide details into how the northern Virginia school district has pushed its teachers to implement equity grading standards.
The syllabus for the professional development program Grading for Equity says it was designed to “support educators in understanding the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of implementing equitable grading practices” and required teachers to read the book Grading for Equity by Joe Feldman.
A source within FCPS who was granted anonymity to speak candidly told the Washington Examiner that teachers were required to read Feldman’s book and discuss it during monthly faculty meetings.
The Washington Examiner reported last year on efforts at Langley High School and other Fairfax County Public Schools to implement equity grading, a practice of grading that involves a multifaceted approach to lower the chances of a student failing. Tenets of equity grading include the elimination of “0” grades through the implementation of a 50% minimum grade on all assignments, the removal of deadlines, and the opportunity to redo assignments.
“The course content will provide educators with the understanding and skills to transform current practices to ensure that the academic excellence of all students is reflected in our systems of evaluation,” the syllabus says. “It will provide tools to ensure that cultural responsiveness is embedded into grading practices of teachers who want grades to reflect learning and understanding of students as opposed to behavior and access to resources. Teachers taking this course are committing to supporting an open-minded, responsive, and collaborative learning environment.”
The course syllabus contains several links to resources, including reading assignments, TED talks, and podcasts about the idea of eliminating grading or changing the current grading system.
Included in those resources is a slideshow on “Navigating Resistance” to equity programs that included instructions on how to respond to people who are critical of equity initiatives in different scenarios.
One of the slides describes a person who “struggle[s] to differentiate between equity and equality” and how this person believes “fair is equal.”
“Because the ‘Fairness-Seeker’ idealizes equality, it may be especially challenging for them to believe in systemic racism: a common refrain from white people engaging in this type of resistance is, ‘but I grew up poor,'” the slide reads. “A lack of experience with racial inequities makes them naive even if their intentions are good — the upside is they can become ardent equity supporters if you can redirect their definition of fairness from equal to equity.”
The slide says that to respond to this, one must “explicitly teach the difference between equality and equity” because the individual may not be familiar with it. The slide also recommends using other people in the room to “dilute the Fairness-Seeker’s voice.”
For another scenario, the slideshow describes the “Minimizer,” who may say things like “I don’t see color” or that the world is inherently unfair. The slide says such people “nee[d] expanded perspective” and that “case studies, story telling, testimony, [and] videos can be particularly influential in shifting the Minimizer.”
Alex Nester, an investigative fellow at Parents Defending Education, told the Washington Examiner that a school district “providing a training manual to address ‘resistance,’ either from teachers or parents, is particularly concerning.”
“Equitable grading hurts the very kids its proponents say they want to help,” Nester said. “Kids who come from low-income families benefit most from fair systems based on merit and achievement. Equitable grading removes this rung in the ladder to success and opportunity for those kids. It sets the bar low and disincentivizes hard work. It also makes it harder for Fairfax students to compete with students from other districts that base grading off of student performance.”
Fairfax County Public Schools did not respond to a request for comment.