Grading scale in public schools might be altered

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A topic for Thursday’s meeting of Vicksburg Warren School District will be enlarging the grade scale to help more students pass and more student athletes become eligible for scholarships.

Superintendent James Price said he is not comfortable with it, but feels it is best for students.

“We’re talking about lowering the standard and none of us like it,” said Price. “But when you weigh that against having our students competing unfairly for scholarships, we just don’t feel like we can penalize our students that way. It would be unconscionable. It means too much to them.”

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Shifting to the so-called 10-point scale has been sweeping the state, following on the heels of changes in Florida and Alabama.

The Warren County School District follows a scale where numerical averages in courses are: 93-100 is an A, 85-92 is a B, 75-84 is a C, 70-74 is a D and 69 and below is an F, or failing grade. With the new 10-point scale, a grade of 90-100 would be an A; 80-89, B; 70-79, C; 60-69, D; and 59 and below, F.

Once letter grades are assigned, grade point averages, or GPAs, are calculated with an A assigned 4 points, a B assigned 3 points, a C assigned 2 points, a D assigned 1 point and an F no points.

Under National Collegiate Athletic Association requirements, the score on a school-neutral test, such as the American College Test, is averaged with a student’s specific, school-assigned GPA. The higher the GPA the lower the possible score needed on the ACT to qualify for a college team.

While the change would specifically be targeted to athletes, all college-bound students would benefit.

“If one of our students makes 92s all the way through high school, he will end up with a B average, or a 3.0 GPA,” said Price. “A student under the 10-point scale could make 92s all the way through high school and end up with an A average, or a 4.0 GPA, because a 92 becomes an A under the new scale. Colleges will only see the GPA rather than the number and take the 4.0 student first.”

If you go

The Vicksburg Warren School District board will meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the district’s main office building, 1500 Mission 66.

Also, students on the cusp of failure or dropping out would pass because an average in the 60s, which would have been an F, would become a D.

A secret vote, taken simultaneously at both junior highs and high schools to prevent pressure to vote a certain way, Price said, revealed 174 of the school’s 247 teachers were in favor of changing the grading scale; 41 were opposed and 32 were undecided.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association is pushing the change in an attempt to level the playing field, MHSAA director of development Phyfa Eiland said. In the past month, 41 of the state’s 154 districts have made the change.

“I was an English teacher in Mississippi and Alabama,” Eiland said. “Even back in the ’70s,’ our students did not have to make as high on the ACT to qualify for (National Collegiate Athletic Association) eligibility.”

While the ACT requirement is supposed to remove school-to-school variations because the same questions are asked nationwide, the sliding scale alters  its weight

“A student with a GPA of 2.0 would have to have a 22 on the ACT to qualify and a student with a 3.0 would only have to have an ACT score of 13,” said Eiland. “We’re talking about just a huge difference in the scores that are needed. People act like Mississippi teachers do a poor job of teaching because their kids can’t qualify but that’s crazy. They just start on a different playing field.”

Changing will require a trustee vote. After Thursday’s discussion, the five board members will vote when they meet again Oct. 30.

The other two larger high schools in Vicksburg, St. Aloysius and Porters Chapel Academy, currently have the same grading scale as the public schools’.

Jennifer Henry, administrator of Vicksburg Catholic School, of which St. Al is a part, said altering the grading to a 10-point scale has been discussed at the Catholic diocese level, but no decision has been made.