Grading and Reporting

A Parent's Guide to Grading and Reporting

Grading Philosophy

On our journey to develop creative, resilient, global citizens, teachers are tasked with designing meaningful, deeper learning experiences for our students.  A critical component of these experiences and a culture of deeper learning in our classrooms is the core belief that teachers must provide meaningful feedback to students that nurtures their academic growth.  Madison has developed a set of common practices that will help students and parents make meaning of grades. These changes will also allow us as educators to provide greater clarification of student progress through our use of some common understandings and practices for grading while staying true to our commitment to a culture of deeper learning.

Common Grading Language

Every teacher at Madison is expected to have the following categories in their gradebooks.  Within each category, teachers are expected to have a sufficient number of assessments that allow students to have multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding.  Teachers, as part of a curriculum team, will articulate on their course syllabi percentages for each named category.  The following are category names and definitions:

  • Summative Assessment:  The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate how close a student has come to achieving mastery of course content and POG skills at key inflection points and/or endpoints during the course.
  • Formative Assessment:  The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning.  More specifically, formative assessments:
    • help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work
    • help teachers recognize where students are struggling and address problems immediately
  • Practice and Prep:  Practice and Prep provides students the opportunity to practice, apply, and/or elaborate on content that they are currently learning.  It may also be used as a preparation for learning new content. Practice and Prep is developed with an emphasis on quality rather than quantity and may account for no more than 10 percent of a quarter grade.  The most common form of Practice and Prep is homework. This category is optional if no points are assigned for Practice and Prep opportunities.

 Other important grading terms and their definitions are listed below.

  • 4.0 Grading Scale:  In order to promote more equitable, consistent and accurate grading and assessment experiences for all students, Madison is transitioning to a 4.0 scale for all classes by the 2020-21 school year.  Many teachers and teams have implemented both 4.0 scales and standards based grading. 
  • Standards Based Grading:  Standards based grading is an effective way to give feedback and evaluate students’ performances using clearly defined criteria for specific learning standards.  This clear communication gives students concrete guidance and useful feedback that they can use to improve their performance in specific areas.
  • Rolling Gradebook:  A rolling gradebook is a cumulative document.  A student’s final grade is determined by a combination of all assignments and assessments throughout the year, regardless of the quarter the work was completed, and is not an average of quarters marks.  The grade posted at the end of each traditional quarter is a snapshot of a student’s current progress in the course. 

Grading Communication

Parents and students can access grades in our Student Information System (“SIS”) at any time.  Parents and students can view SIS information on the FCPS website (ParentVUE or StudentVUE).  Both parents and students are encouraged to reach out to a teacher if they have questions about what they see in SIS.  

Grading Frequently Asked Questions

  • What do grades represent?  The grade earned indicates the level of mastery in accordance with the FCPS Program of Studies or the College Board’s Advanced Placement curriculum for each subject area.  Grades will be posted within seven school days after the due date with the understanding that major projects/papers may require additional time to ensure quality feedback.  
  • How will we know when assignments need to be turned in?  Teachers will enter due dates for each entry in SIS.  Additional assignment information can be found on either Google or Blackboard 24/7.  If you can’t find what you are looking for, please email the teacher.
  • What comments will teachers use in their gradebooks?  The following comments will be used in SIS to communicate to parents and students the status of assessments recorded in the gradebook:
    • Absent
    • Excused from the assignment (no point value)
    • Late
    • Minimum grade (50% or 0 on a 4.0 scale)
    • Retake grade
    • Submitted for grading (for long-term projects)
    • Not Handed in
  • Do we offer extra credit?  Per FCPS policy, James Madison High School does not award extra points/extra credit for any assignments or assessments.
  • How will grades be calculated?  Teachers will communicate on their course syllabi which of the following grading scales will be used to calculate quarter and final course marks.  “Practice and Prep” may not exceed 10% of a quarter mark and celebrations of learning/final exams may not be worth more than 12% per FCPS grading and reporting guidelines.

Grading Scale

Grading Chart


  • What are final exams like?  Teachers have been encouraged to create a culminating learning activity to celebrate what students have learned throughout the year.  Course syllabi will explain expectations around either a Celebrations of Learning or a traditional final exam. Additionally, any exemptions will be spelled out in course syllabi.  Seniors may qualify to participate in the WINGS Program in lieu of final exams.
  • How do quality points work for honors and AP classes?  For students who pass an AP/HNs course, an additional 1.0/.5 quality point will be added to the quality point value assigned to the final mark for purposes of calculating GPA.  Students enrolled in AP courses are strongly encouraged to take the culminating external examination associated with the course.  These standardized examinations are designed to measure content and skill mastery and a successful score may earn credit and advanced placement in college.  Information for students who choose not to participate in an AP exam for a course in which they are currently enrolled will be provided later in the school year.  
  • What if a student submits an assignment late?  Late work will be accepted to document learning or mastery.  Students who turn work in late will incur a maximum deduction of a half-letter grade (ex: B+ to B).  If a student knows their work will be turned in late due to special circumstances, the student will communicate with teachers in advance to create an action plan and provide proof of progress.  Details of these expectations can be found in a teacher’s course syllabi.
  • Will students be able to retake or revise assessments?  Teachers will identify in advance which summative assessments are eligible for a retake.  For these assessments, at least one new opportunity to demonstrate mastery shall be provided to any student who scores below 3.4 on a 4.0 scale or 90% on the 100 point scale (less than an A-) and completes corrective action determined by the subject team.  Assessments not eligible for a retake will be articulated in a teacher’s course syllabi.
  • Is there an honor code at JMHS?  Yes.
    • “Learning is about the process, not necessarily the outcome. I made my best individual effort and I have not given nor received any unauthorized assistance on this assignment. All of the work presented is my own.” 
    • If a teacher determines that a student may have violated the honor code policy, they will contact the parent and the student’s administrator.  The administrator will decide if the infraction constitutes an honor code warning or violation and will assign consequences according. More information on the honor code can be found at this link.  
  • Who do I contact if I have a question about grading?  Students should reach out to their teacher if they have a question about a grade.  If there are still concerns after the student has contacted the teacher, parents should communicate with the teacher directly.  The expectation is that teachers respond to parent concerns within 48 hours. You may also reach out to your child’s school counselor who can help facilitate a conversation with the teacher.
  • The 4.0 grading practice is a departure from grading practices in previous years. Why was this done and what is the benefit of shifting to a 4.0 scale? How will students receive quality feedback through this system? The 4.0 scale provides students with a “more equitable” and standardized assessment score. There is a larger variation in the 100 point scale for what an A, A-, B, B+, etc., could be when teachers have the option of a 10 point difference within a letter grade. The 4.0 scale also ensures that students are receiving the higher end of the grade scale. 
    • Example: A student might receive a 97 as an A in the 100 point scale system in one class and the same student might receive a 95 as an A in the 100 point scale in a different class. The 4.0 scale predetermines that an A, regardless of class or teacher, is a 4.0 and an A-, regardless of class or teacher, is a 3.7. These are the “highest ends of the range”(A = 3.8-40 and A- = 3.4 – 3.7). 
  • How are teachers providing feedback to students in assessments when students receive a “3” or “2” or “1”? How does the 4.0 scale support teachers providing feedback? Teachers are providing feedback as usual through formative assessments, grades, and the daily conversations and learning experiences in class. Feedback is one of the most important aspects for teaching and learning regardless of the scale being used, and teachers will continue to provide feedback with formative assessments and practice/preparation assignments. Embedded into the 4.0 scale is often the shift to a standards-based assessment system, where students receive detailed feedback and ongoing assessment opportunities to develop mastery over time on the discrete skills within a larger unit or assessment experience. As students receive grades on the essential standards and skills of a course, they are receiving MORE information and feedback on their skill level in the standards so that teachers can provide more personalized learning opportunities and reassessment opportunities for students in order to support students as they “master” skills and deeply understand content standards over time.
    • Example: In English 10, the standards of “Identify an Author’s Intended Meaning”, “Provide evidence to support a claim” and “Analyze evidence to explain the author’s intended meaning” are all discrete skills/standards within a larger analysis essay assessment. Students receive a score for these discrete skills as standards in the grade book on a 4.0 scale. Instead of simply receiving an “88” on an essay, students are provided scores for each skill/standard, such as “thesis statement”, “integration of evidence,” analysis of literary elements”. This provides more specific and concrete feedback and students are able to focus on specific standard strands as they reassess  or in the next assessment opportunity. The students are given more information to track their growth in the standards and skills over time.
    • *Note: at the beginning of the learning experience/unit/year, these skills and standards are “new” to a student or the level/cognitive demand is higher than the previous year or unit, it is common that students may not be proficient at first, which will reflect a lower assessment score. However, the standards-based system provides multiple opportunities for students to continue to develop and reassess on the standards and skills in order to move toward mastery. Students often have multiple formative assessments before they have a summative assessment.
  • How does the rolling grade book work? The rolling grade book’s intent is to ensure that as students are building content knowledge and essential skills that they are not penalized for their “lack of knowledge” or lower skill level on recursive skills in the beginning of the year. The rolling grade book is a cumulative grading and reporting document and system. Students’ grades are reflective of their skill ability and content knowledge at the end of the year rather than averaging four quarters over the course of the year. This ensures that as the students develop over the year that their first quarter grade does not pull down their overall grade.
    • Example: In English 10, the formative assessments that students experience at this time in the year will be replaced by formative assessment scores later in the quarter and year since students are just now learning and practicing the skills and content through formative assessments. The final grade in English 10 will consist of the student’s summative assessments throughout the year and the last three formative assessment scores for the essential skills and content that the students grow toward mastery of at the end of the year. Quarter grades become interim reporting statements rather than “final” quarter grades. This also allows for teachers and students to follow the pace of learning that is best for students instead of letting the quarter dates dictate the learning pace. For seniors, the rolling grade book is attended to in order to ensure that seniors’ grades are an accurate reflection of their content knowledge and skill ability at the quarter and first semester mark, just as they would with a traditional quarter grading system.   
    • Watch a video about rolling gradebook.  
  • How has the 4.0 scale, standards-based grading and rolling grade book system been explained to students in classes? Teachers have common syllabi with common language across the school and departments regarding formative, summative and practice/prep assessments.  Grade level and content level teams have common grading practices. I noted that I often discuss the processes in class with my students and answer questions that students have and ensure that they know they can come talk to me any time to understand the process.
  • Question: How familiar are teachers with the 4.0 system and rolling grade book? Teachers are familiar with the 4.0 system since this is the second year of integration across Madison. Not all teachers have transitioned to the 4.0 scale,  standards-based grading or rolling grade book, yet the goal is that all teachers are implementing the 4.0 scale by next year. Teachers, department leaders, the administrative staff are collaborating across the school to ensure that the grading practices are being implemented with integrity and best practices. Ongoing professional development is happening through teacher’s personalized learning, CLT’s, after school classes and sessions for teachers, and as needed by the teacher and department.


Research & Resources