10-point grade scale approved

Published 10:46 pm Friday, December 10, 2010

By Heather McGinley

Staff Writer

Starting next fall, Suffolk Public Schools students will find it easier to bring home straight A’s.

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School Board members voted Thursday to approve a new 10-point grading scale, which goes into effect next year. The unanimous decision came despite questions from some School Board members about how the more lenient scale would affect students’ motivation.

The schools currently use a six-point scale, where students who earn a 94 to 100 receive an A, and so on. The lowest passing grade on the six-point scale is a 70.

According to a recommendation from a committee appointed to research the issue, a 10-point scale puts Suffolk students on a level playing field with students from other area divisions, which moved to the 10-point scale in recent years. The change also reflects the grading system used at most universities.

The committee also conducted a poll of students, parents, teachers and community members on the issue. Not surprisingly, 95 percent of next year’s high school students who responded preferred the more lenient scale, while fewer parents (86 percent) community members (81 percent) and teachers (80 percent) wanted the new scale.

Of all respondents to the survey, 87 percent preferred the 10-point scale.

The appointed committee responded to questions and concerns from School Board members who were concerned about lowering expectations.

Steven Edwards, supervisor of testing and research for Suffolk Public Schools and chairman of the committee, assured the School Board that the rigor of courses should not change, because the teacher sets the tone of the course.

“I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be graded the same, but the outcome will be different or potentially different,” he said.

“The teacher sets the tone and rigor of the course,” School Board member Phyllis Byrum said. “As long as teachers keep doing that, we will be fine.”

The new grading scale also includes “pluses” and “minuses” for the letter grades, as well as new weights for advanced courses.

The committee also stated that students may be more willing to take honors, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Dual Credit courses if the 10-point scale is approved, because students would be less concerned about the impact of the letter grade on their GPA. Edwards said he hopes that approving the 10-point grading scale will “encourage students to take on the challenge” of AP and IB coursework.

Edwards added the new scale should increase graduation rates and decrease dropout rates.