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School division committee looking at alternative grading scale

King George resident Brian Jackson seems to have helped spark the establishment of a committee to investigate changing the grading scale used in the King George school division, particularly at the high school.
Parent Beckey Gallamore first publicly brought the topic up during public comment at a School Board meeting last August 13 and asked the division to look into changing it.
On February 10, Jackson’s email on the topic to Superintendent Candace Brown and other central office administrators seemed to get the ball rolling.
Two committee meetings have been held so far, on March 9 and March 30, with the next one set for April 27.  
The committee is headed up by Supervisor of Curriculum Ann Cocke and includes a mix of division staff and community members.   
The minutes of the first meeting state the committee’s purpose is to review the current grading scale and research grading scales from other divisions, then make recommendations concerning the grading scale.
With the current grading scale, it takes a 94 to earn an “A,” and an 86 for a “B.”  
But Jackson notes that in most high schools nationwide a 90 is an “A” and an 80 is a “B.”  
In both cases, an A receives 4 points and a B gets 3 when calculating grade point averages (GPAs).
Jackson said in his February 10 email to Brown, “As a parent of two middle school students who expect to attend college, I am very concerned over our county’s antiquated grading scale.  My children will soon compete for limited out-of-state admission opportunities but our current grading scale will place them at a distinct disadvantage when competing against students from school divisions using a 10-point scale and greater weights for advanced courses.”
Jackson noted that a recent Fairfax County Public Schools investigation into school grading policies reveals that contrary to what parents and students have been told, 55 percent of colleges surveyed do not recalculate grades and 89 percent compare individual applicants against their entire applicant pool.
Because letter grades are the #1 factor for college admissions, Jackson says the current King George grading scale is limiting the college choices available to county students.
“Our lower GPAs matter not only in terms of college admissions, but also acceptance into Honors programs, discounts on auto insurance, and awards of Merit Scholarships,” Jackson said.
He provided the example that Fairfax County discovered.  
“At many universities, a student simply needs a 3.5 GPA and a solid SAT Score to be eligible for an automatic, merit scholarship that may total thousands of dollars.  Overall, this GPA inequity could realistically cost King George families in terms of state college admissions, academic/ merit scholarships, college honors programs, and good student driver discounts. In this current economic crisis, it is an unfair burden to not permit King George County students to compete on a level playing field,” Jackson said.
Jackson pushed for the hard look at what’s happening across the state and nation with grading scales, saying, “I would like to begin a serious discussion about following Fairfax County’s lead and join the majority of American high schools who have implemented the more commonly used 10-point grading scale, with added weights for Honors and AP/IB classes. The Stafford County School Board has already voted to change their grading system to a 10-point scale and on 28 January, a majority of Loudoun County school board members expressed their support to change their 7-point grading scale. I am not alone in thinking that it is time for us to make the change as well.”
That discussion is now in the hands of that division committee.  No set timeline has been established for reporting.  The committee looked at the proposed 10-point grading scale, which provides grades as follows:  90-100=A, 80-89=B, 70-79=C, 60-69=D, Below 60=F.
The committee is developing surveys designed to elicit input from teachers, staff, and parents/guardians.
Jackson told The Journal, “At first blush, you may say a higher standard is desirable and it’s good that we have a tough grading scale because it raises expectations and makes our kids work harder.”
But he added, “While this sentiment may or may not be true, the point here isn’t higher standards, but rather that our present grading scale places King George students at a disadvantage when seeking college admission, merit scholarships, and good driver discounts.”
Jackson said he’d be fine with a grading scale if all the other divisions had the same scale.  
But they don’t.  
“GPA is a standard measurement of a student’s grades and academic achievement. When that standard is different from King George, it’s an inaccurate representation of the hard work a King George student does.”
Jackson noted that Fairfax County’s study produced an extensive investigation prior to a vote by its School Board to go to the new grading scale this fall at the beginning of next school year.  (The Fairfax report can be found on our website at www.journalpress.com accompanying this article online.)
Jackson also noted that the Fairfax County School board investigation found that the actual high school grades (A, B, C, or D) are the MOST important factor in college admissions.  
That finding is repeatedly acknowledged in the report with citations from the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), the College Board, and the Fairfax County School Board’s own college survey conducted for the report.
Jackson found that the Fairfax report notes the following highlights of its study of grading scales:  ~ Fairfax’s  old six-point scale resulted in Fairfax students having notably lower GPAs than non-Fairfax students with similar SAT scores but graded on a 10-point scale, thereby putting Fairfax students at a competitive disadvantage for college admissions.
~ 75 school systems in 12 different states have adopted the 10-point scale in the last few years.
~ No evidence supports the current six-point scale in Fairfax.
~ On page 49, Figure 6, of the investigation report, it states that changing both the weights for advanced classes and the grading scale benefits all students, especially those with GPAs below 3.75.
~ The grading scale has no bearing on a high school’s academic standards.  A vast majority of our nation’s very best high schools use the 10-point scale (see the 2008 Gold Medal Winner High Schools).
 ~ A school district’s academic standards are measured by their four-year college attendance rates for high school graduates, mean SAT scores and Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate class participation and performance.
Jackson said, “If a student is taking the same courses and delivering the same performance in our county and it’s giving him a 3.5 average, and if he were simply in Stafford County or Spotsylvania county, his GPA would be a 3.9, then that’s patently wrong.  This uneven playing field places our kids at a distinct disadvantage and could potentially cost parents money and lost opportunities for our kids - this needs to change.”

fairfax county investigation report_120 pages.pdf

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