Elementary Grading and Reporting Handbook for Parents: Overview

Standards-based Grading and Reporting


The Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Elementary Progress Report is based on curriculum standards. This progress reports:

  • Aligns with the Program of Studies (POS) curriculum students are learning
  • Provides teachers with resources to communicate a more exact and consistent assessment
  • Provides parents with comprehensive information about how their child is learning
  • Incorporates research-based best practices in student grading and reporting
  • Aligns life, work, and citizenship skills with the School Board goals and reports these separately from achievement
  • Is delivered through the integrated Student Information System (SIS)
  • Is completed electronically by teachers


In 1987 the Elementary School Study committee included in its recommendations a review of the existing elementary progress reports. In addition, revisions in the elementary Program of Studies resulted in the need to consider progress report revisions to reflect new curricular objectives. As a result, a committee was convened in March 1988 to review the current elementary school progress reports, grades 1-6. Twelve schools, three in each administrative area, piloted the revised Elementary School Progress Report in 1988-89. The pilot was expanded to twenty-four schools to include more diverse programs and populations during the 1989-90 and 1990-91 school years. All elementary schools began to use the progress report for grades 1-6 during the 1991-92 school year, and all elementary schools began to enter marks and comments using automation during the 1993-1994 school year. In 2003 the Fairfax County School Board approved a revised version of the Kindergarten Progress Report (KPR). All schools used the electronic KPR and provided parents or guardians with printed copies each reporting period.

Prior to the most recent revision of the elementary progress report in School Year 2012-13, focus groups of parents, teachers, and principals convened to determine the components of a new instrument.  These groups overwhelmingly recommended that not only should the new instrument be based on standards, but should also be consistent in all elementary grades, K-6. Since the previous version of elementary progress report did not allow teachers to report on how students meet expected standards, FCPS adopted a new standards based report card in School Year 2012-13. This move towards a standard-based reporting system is current with what is happening throughout the United States and aligns the information provided to parents on the progress reports with how teachers are currently teaching and assessing students.

One of the goals of a standards-based progress report is to provide more grading consistency both within schools and between schools because teachers use expected standards to grade performance. This eliminates the potential for comparisons within a class to determine a mark. Teachers grade only on the standards he or she teaches during a given grading period and whether or not a student has demonstrated that he or she has learned the standards. These standards are the big ideas that are taught in each content area. The standards contained in the Commonwealth’s Standard of Learning and in FCPS’ Program of Study are very specific and the set of standards is very comprehensive.  If FCPS included all POS standards on the progress report, it would be quite lengthy and not user-friendly for parents.  Instead, FCPS correlated everything taught in our curriculum to standards for reporting to parents. The progress report standards are the same for all grade levels, K-6.


The purpose of any system of reporting to parents is to strengthen the home-school partnership and to inform parents concerning student progress. The degree to which parents are informed of the philosophy of the school system, its programs, and the assessment of students’ strengths and weaknesses is important in establishing a positive attitude toward school and a cooperative relationship between school and home. Assessments are straightforward with teacher judgments based on objective data. The K-6 progress reports reflect the instructional level of students. Progress reports should be communicated in terms understood by those involved. The main objective of an elementary progress report is to communicate to parents what students know and are able to do. Fairfax County Public Schools takes this mission very seriously, and is committed to providing the best possible information to parents. Research shows that student success is highly correlated with parent involvement in school progress. Further, FCPS believes that assessment and reporting of student achievement benefits the child’s overall development as a person and promotes acquisition of self-esteem and life skills.

Standards-based grading is a way to communicate what students know at a point in time rather than an average of performance over an entire period. It measures a student’s performance according to the standards taught rather than comparing student progress to other students. FCPS has incorporated the required Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) into a rigorous Program of Studies and standards-aligned pacing guides. Instruction is planned, implemented, and assessed using these guidelines. Student progress is evaluated every quarter based on skills within each standard for the specific grade level based on expectations for the curriculum taught during that period of time. Effort and academics are reported separately so the parents know the effort of the student as well as understanding of specific skills. Individualized comments will continue to be an important part of parent communication on the standards-based report card.

Grades on the elementary progress report can assist parents in making informed decisions regarding course selection at the middle school level.


How does the standards-based progress report compare to the traditional report?

Traditional Progress Report

Standards-based Progress Report

Students receive one grade for each subject area.

Students receive multiple grades in each subject area because the subject areas have been broken into broad categories that encompass the standards students are learning.

Students receive grades represented by a letter.

Students receive grades based on a numeric level.

Students’ grades are cumulative.

Students’ grades are representative of the student’s progress at the time the teacher marks the progress report. Teachers consider the most current assessment data in determining grades.

Teachers can select comments from a list of prewritten choices.

Teachers will have the option to write personalized comments for students as well as select comments from a list provided.

Students receive grades on effort and work habits

Students still receive grades on effort and work habits.  The work habits section (Life, Work, and Citizenship skills) includes items from the School Board goals.

Students receive grades in all core content areas and health, music, physical education, art, and band/strings.

Students continue to receive grades in all these areas.  In addition, elementary students receiving instruction in World Languages also will be assessed in this area.