The secret to getting good grades

Jessica Salisbury, Academics Editor

School can be very challenging at times. Students have to deal with a lot in order to stay on track with their work and keep up with their grades. From multiple quizzes and tests in one day to staying up all night completing assignments, it’s safe to say that school is not always easy.
Fortunately, Fairfax County has many grading policies that are designed to help students through their struggles.
Starting last year, the 80 percent retake policy was put into place with the intent to give students a second chance if they fail a test the first time they take it.
With this policy, if a student gets anything lower than an 80 percent on a test, they have the option to retake it. If they do choose to retake the material, the highest grade they can receive on their second try would be an 80 percent.
Since this policy was put into place last year, many students have found it to be very helpful.
“I think the policy is very beneficial, it gives students a baseline to strive for, knowing that they will be able to retake it even if they aren’t the best at that certain subject,” senior Sam Curtin said.
Before this policy was issued, when students earned a bad score on a test, it affected their grade drastically and there was nothing that the student could have done to fix it.
“In some classes, tests can be worth 60 percent of your grade, so if you fail a test your overall grade can drop tremendously,” sophomore Daniel Flynn said.
This policy puts less stress on students and gives them a second chance at success. It also allows kids to be less anxious when taking a major test knowing that if they don’t do great on the first try they can always try again to do better.
“When I get a better score on the retake, it boosts my grade up,” junior Johnny Sandoval said. “If I were to keep my failing score instead of my retake score it would bring my grade down a lot and I would have to work a lot harder to bring my quarter grade up.”
Although the retake policy seems great on the surface, it also has a downside. With the policy in place students don’t always put in the effort and study to learn the material to help prepare for the first time they take the test.
Another policy that was put into place in Fairfax County that students might not be as aware of is the “no zero” policy.
This policy essentially tries to eliminate zeros from grades. Students who make reasonable attempts to complete work should be given a grade no lower than 50, according to the policy.
“I find the no zero policy to be very useful because if you do bad on an assignment you can at least get some credit for trying,” Flynn said.
With this administration, teachers have the ability to raise a student’s grade up to at least 50 percent as long as the student put in effort into complete the assignment. For example, if a student turns in a paper and receives a 20 percent on it, the teacher can raise that grade up to a 50 percent.
“I think that the no zero policy can encourage students to work harder and I believe in positive feedback,” Math teacher Kathy Nice said.
The reason for this rule is because when a student gets a zero added into the grade book it is very hard to come back from that. When an “F” grade is raised from a 0 percent to a 50 percent, it makes it a little easier for the student to dig themselves out of the hole that they have created.
“I think that there are pros and cons to this policy. On one hand it might be helpful for students who are struggling to understand the curriculum that is being taught, but on the other hand it might encourage students to not try as hard because they know that they will still receive at least half credit on the assignment,” Curtin said.
The no zero policy can also be applied to quarterly grades. This is because if a student gets a zero one quarter due to a long term absence, it makes it almost impossible form them to pass that class at the end of the year.
Some students can end up missing weeks, or even months of school due to a serious illness or personal family problems. The “no zero” policy can help keep the students chances of passing the grade alive when they return to school.
Although this policy can be seen as very beneficial to all students, most teachers don’t use it.
“Maybe one or two of my teachers follow it,” Curtin said.