Isle of Wight schools lower the grading bar

Published 10:45 am Friday, January 14, 2011

ISLE OF WIGHT—After months of pressure from parents, the Isle of Wight County School Board voted Thursday to make it easier for students to get A’s on their report cards.

The new scale, however, isn’t the 10-point scale many parents wanted. Under the new scale, a grade of 91 to 100 is an A; 82 to 90 is a B; 74 to 81 is a C; and 65 to 73 is a D. A committee of middle and high school principals and central office staff will report to the board in March with a recommendation for implementation.

Currently, a grade of 94 to 100 is an A; 86 to 93 is a B; 78 to 85 is a C; and 70 to 77 is a D.

“I was not happy. I think it was a flawed procedure,” parent Chuck Dunlap said of the vote to change the scale.

He was one of several parents who pushed for a 10-point grading scale because they believe the county’s current scale puts students at a disadvantage for college admissions and scholarships.

A survey conducted by the school division last year showed widespread support for a 10-point scale among parents, students and school employees.

School board member Dr. George Bradby, who represents the Newport District, said the current grading scale was adopted to combat grade inflation.

“I had prepared myself — with reservations — to vote for the full 10-point scale,” he said. “If the parents have spoken, the citizens have spoken and they say this is what we want, I was prepared to vote for that.”

School Board Chairman David Goodrich said he had researched and looked at several different reports and found “pros and cons” to a 10-point grading scale.

“If we increase rigor and expectations, we’re going to have more on-time graduation rates and we’re going to have more students achieving at higher levels,” Goodrich said. “But until we address that — no matter what the grading scale is — it’s not going to solve any problems.”

The board rejected a call to implement the new grading scale for this year’s graduating seniors. Superintendent Dr. Michael McPherson said that it would have been unfair to students who have already sent out transcripts and that the process wouldn’t be as simple as some parents suggest.

“It’s a lot more to it than pressing a button,” he said.

Dunlap said he doesn’t expect the board to reconsider the grading scale issue anytime soon.

The new system “is more fair than the one we’re using at the moment, but it’s still behind all of our neighbors,” he said. “It still puts our students at a disadvantage for merit-based scholarships when compared with other students around the commonwealth.”