Wilfred Volesky: Should high school grading scale be changed?
For many years the grading scale at Mandan High School has been tougher than the grading scale in most North Dakota High Schools. The grading scale at Mandan High is: A=93-100 percent; B=85-92 percent; C=77-84 percent; D=70-76 percent and an F is 69 percent and below. In most high schools the grading scale is an A=90-100 percent; B=80-89 percent; C=70-79 percent; D=60-69 percent and an F is 59 percent and below. For a student to earn a C in a class at Mandan High, they must average 7 percent points more than students in most other high schools. A similar difference occurs in all other letter grade categories.
There certainly is nothing wrong with having high expectations for students. Normally, when students understand a teacher’s expectations, they will put forth the necessary effort to make sure that they earn the grade they feel they are capable of earning. In many cases, the more that you expect out of students the more they will accomplish.
The problem with high expectations is when students are required to compete with other students in North Dakota for scholarships or awards that are academically based. At the present time there clearly is one award that puts our students at a disadvantage. That award is the North Dakota High School Team Scholar Award. At the end of each activity season the NDHSAA recognizes activity teams in North Dakota that achieve a 3.2 grade point average or above during their season. To determine a team’s GPA, you use each varsity student’s GPA for the nine weeks prior to the season ending to find the team average.
Let’s assume that a varsity team of 12 students receive the following grades during a nine week period. Four students average a 92 percent, four students average an 87 percent and four students average an 80 percent, which equates to an 86 percent team average. At Mandan High School the 86 percent is a B – or a 3.0 GPA. The 86 percent in most high schools in North Dakota would be a B or a 3.33 GPA. Since a team needs to have a 3.2 GPA for the Team Scholar Award, the Mandan team would not receive the award, while most other teams in N.D. would receive the Team Scholar Award. Yet in this comparison, the students cumulatively all achieved the same quarter percentage grade.
As we look to the future a major reason to revise the grading policy is the scholarships that students will be able to earn from the state of North Dakota beginning in the 2010-11 school year. As I indicated in my September article, North Dakota students will be able to earn a technical or an academic scholarship beginning this year. However, this year the students need to receive a 24 on the ACT test in order to earn the scholarship. In the future there are a number of requirements that a student will need to complete in order to receive either of the two scholarships. One of those requirements is to earn a cumulative grade point average of at least a “B” in classes taken during high school.
To obtain a cumulative grade point average of a B, Mandan students will need to put forth a greater effort than students from other high schools. A Mandan student will need to average 87 percent in all courses taken during high school while a student in most other high schools will need to average 84 percent to meet the cumulative grade point average to obtain a scholarship. The difference is simply due to the grading scale currently being used at the high school.
From my perspective, to continue using our present grading scale would be an injustice to our students. In the near future this issue will come before the Curriculum Committee for discussion. I am confident that the committee members will see the value of changing our grading scale so that Mandan students will be able to compete with all North Dakota students for scholarships and other academic programs using the same grading scale.