Isle of Wight should update grading scale

Published 8:06 am Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I watched with interest as people responded to The Tidewater News poll regarding the Isle of Wight grading system.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that some still hang on to the old myths that

“easing” the grading scale will result in lower academic standards and “dumbing down” our children’s education. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In a 2001 research report, the impact of grading standards on student achievement, educational attainment, and entry-level earnings, Drs. Julian Betts and Jeff Grogger wrote “we find that they (higher grading standards) have no significant effect on educational

attainment.” In fact, for less advantaged students, “there is evidence that higher standards actually reduce graduation rates.”

The Fairfax County grading scale review committee opined that “As the college admissions landscape has changed, school divisions have begun reviewing and revising their grading policies. The trend seems to be moving in the direction of a 10-point grading scale with honors, AP, IB dual enrollment and other advanced courses weighted to reflect their challenging nature.”

The committee’s report indicated that “The 10-point grading scale and letter grades are the most common grading scales observed in the applicant pools of colleges surveyed. The 6-, 7- and 8-point grading scales are the least common.”

The report also stated that “75 out of 78 school divisions that have reviewed their grading policies made the decision to change to a 10-point grading scale.” They did not find any schools that went the other way.

As more and more school districts convert to a 10-point system, the 6-,7-, and 8-point grading systems become rarer and rarer, and their students fall farther and farther behind those who are graded on a 10-point system. Those districts that hold onto the old theory that moving to a more standard grading scale is somehow lowering the bar just

Don’t know or understand the research.

In January 2009 The Washington Post reported that, “in the past, (Fairfax) School Board members have defended the tough grading scale system as an asset to a school system that sets a high bar for success.” However, one member had this to say about the shift: “We’re not lowering standards but adopting a more standard language. It’s important that parents feel there is enough of a level playing field that their students are being looked at in the appropriate light along with the other schools in the nation.”

It’s time to come out of the theoretical world and look objectively at the empirical evidence. It’s time to accept the reality of Isle of Wight’s current grading scale and adjust it so as not to disadvantage our students with regards to college admissions and scholarship opportunities.