|A new grading scale will help smooth the way in college admissions. FTM file.|
After much discussion, meetings and input from teachers, parents and students, a Fort Thomas Independent Schools committee has made some changes to the standard school grading scale, bringing it more in line with other schools across the state and with college admissions and scholarship requirements.
Assistant Superintendent Bill Bradford presented the revised scale for a first reading at the April school board meeting. He explained that there will be changes to two parts of the grading scale policy, one concerning the overall alpha numeric grading scale and the other with the “weighted” grading scale used within the district to determine class rank, honors distinction and other academic achievements.
The challenge has been to provide a simple traditional, or “unweighted” grading scale on transcripts so that students will be on par with what colleges and scholarship bodies expect and accept while, at the same time, offering a meaningful internal grading scale that reflects and rewards high academic achievement.
The 10-point standard grading scale
Bradford first explained the new 10-point grading scale. With each grade comprising a 10 point spread, it will be easier to translate for transcripts required for college entry requirements.
In the new scale, an A will be awarded to those with numerical scores of 90 to 100, a B will run from 80 to 89, a C with run from 70 to 79, a D will run from 60 to 69, and 59 points or less will reflect a failing grade.
Within each 10-point grade, higher points will designate a “plus” or higher achievement category within each grade spread. For example, students earning 90 or above will receive an A but those earning 97 points or above will earn an A plus. The plus category is included within ranges for B and C as well.
"We engaged in a rather lengthy conversation at our working board meeting Thursday," explained Bradford. "We talked through the scenario of the unweighted GPA and how that was used by colleges and universities for both acceptance as well as for scholarship opportunities. So we took the liberty of making phone calls to the 10 most-enrolled universities within the state of Kentucky to ask them how they are calculating GPA and what they are doing with GPAs provided to them."
He said the colleges looked for standard GPA calculation using a standard scale (4, 3, 2, or 1 point). If that scale is listed on a student’s transcript, the college will accept the GPA, but if the school uses a different scale, the college will recalculate the students’ GPA based on the four-point scale. This can put Fort Thomas students at a disadvantage if their applications have to be set aside to be recalculated.
The new scale can be translated into the standard scale used on college admissions and it also opens up the possibility of an A grade to more students and encourages them to work to advance, said Bradford.
A different scale for class rank and achievement
Fort Thomas Independent Schools has long used a scale that adds “weight” to grades in more complex courses requiring a higher level of work such as college level or AP courses. The scale allows for additional points in .25 increments for high achievement within a level. The only real change in these scales is the addition of a possible A plus designation. In the new standard weighted scale, an A earns four points, but an A plus earns 4.25 points.
Board Member Brad Fennell asked why the two grading scales if the goal is to simplify to be on par with other schools and with college entry requirements.
The internal grading scale, to be used in determining academic achievement, offers a way for students who have worked hard to demonstrate that achievement, said Bradford.
"The benefit to this opportunity is we are allowing our students to self separate among their peers based upon the highest levels of academic achievement," said Bradford.
Board Member Karen Allen agreed that the simple grading scale is needed to ensure Fort Thomas student transcripts are not set aside to be recalculated for college admissions, but she also agreed that the internal weighted scale is needed as an incentive for students to attempt and achieve higher learning goals.
"What I’ve heard from students is they want the reward for that extra effort, not just that a 90 gets the A. They want more for the additional effort they have put forward," said Allen.
She said both issues can be addressed but one may be more of a procedural issue than one of policy to best determine how to represent the grading scale on transcripts. For this, more research may be needed by the committee.
"I want to say that we’ve had parents, teachers, students at our meetings....The people in this community are passionate about education. We talked about a lot more about grading than I thought we would. But there’s passion there, passion to help the kids be the best they can be," she added.
The board voted to accept the first reading of the changes. A final version will be presented at the next board meeting.