Thursday, January 15, 2015

10-Point Grading Scale & Related NC Grading Topics

The North Carolina Public Schools Board of Education recently approved to move all high schools to a 10-point grading scale, starting in 2015-2016.  Initially, the 10-point grading scale was approved for  next year's incoming freshmen only, which could have potentially created the following situation:

Student 'Joe' is a 10th grader and earns a 92% in Spanish I.  Final Grade: B

Student 'Jill' is a 9th grader and earns a 92% in Spanish I.  Final Grade: A

Thankfully, the Board of Education recognized the conceivable conflicts and amended the decision to impact all high school students, beginning next school-year.

To coincide with the 10-point grading scale change, all LEA's will be posting numerical grades as Final Grades, rather than letter grades.  Gaston County Schools already posts numerical grades on Report Cards and Transcripts, rather than letter grades.  Many districts have posted letter grades for many years and some even utilize +/- on their final grades.

I appreciate the higher-level of accountability with detailed numerical grades, as opposed to blanket letter grades.  There is a vast difference between a student earning an 92% and an 85%, both of which are currently "B's".  [Note: Next year, they won't be the same grade.]

Probably the largest impact will be at the failing threshold, shifting from 70% to 60%.

Another monumental change recently approved by the Board of Education is the grade point average "weighting" for Honors and Advanced Placement classes.  This policy item does indeed only impact the incoming freshmen of 2015-2016 (Class of 2019):
  • Honors-level courses will now be weighted on a 4.5 scale (rather than 5.0)
  • Advanced Placement courses will be weighted on a 5.0 scale (rather than 6.0)
Freshmen usually are not able to take Advanced Placement courses until their 10th grade year, but many freshmen will take Honors-courses next year.  But the aforementioned situation referenced with the point-scale will be an issue in two years (2016-2017).  Example:

'Sam' is a Senior (Class of 2017) and earns a 95% in AP Psychology.  Grade-point Value: 6.0

'Sue' is a Sophomore (Class of 2019) and earns a 95% in AP Psychology.  Grade-point Value: 5.0

Personally, I am in a big proponent of adjusting the grade-weights and due to my decade-plus serving in a high school, I am fully-aware of the GPA game involving competition for class-rank, scholarships, etc.  The true "grade value" is a topic for another blog post, as well as the reflection of the true value of grades in the first-place.

My support for decreasing the weights may have to do with my own secondary upbringing (Michigan), where the 'A' in Advanced Placement Calculus was 4.0, just as my 'A' in Peer Assistance.  Both were weighted the exact same in my grade-point average and on my transcript.

Fortunately for me, anyone who viewed the transcript had no idea if I squeaked in that 'A' with a 90% or completed mastered the course from the beginning with a 100%.

Beginning next year, the students across North Carolina's public high schools will not be so fortunate.

Thanks for reading,


The opinions shared in this blog belong to Craig Smith and do not represent the school or district in which he works.

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