‘We want our schools on the same playing field. Fairness is what we are looking for.’ –William O. Helm, School Board Member
Friday, December 13, 2013
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
After two years of soliciting thoughts and opinions from school principals, administrators, guidance counselors, parents and other school divisions, the Franklin County School Board is now considering a 10-point grading scale for students.
Currently, a six-point scale is used for students in the third grade and up.
The consensus is that switching to a 10-point scale would make Franklin County's school district more consistent with other districts, counties and states that are already using the 10-point scale. It would also allow Franklin County students greater opportunity for college acceptance and scholarship consideration because colleges use a 10-point scale.
"We want our schools to be competitive," said at-large school board member William Helm. "We want our schools on the same playing field. Fairness is what we are looking for."
"Why shouldn't our kids get the same opportunities?" asked Blue Ridge member Julie Nix, suggesting that the change would positively affect student financial aid.
Making the switch would increase students' GPAs, opening them up for more merit based scholarships.
Superintendent Mark Church said that colleges do understand that Franklin County is on a six-point system and factor that into their decisions.
"Colleges seem to know which schools are on a six-point scale and which are on a 10-point scale," said Church. "Making this switch may lower academic standards. However, I feel our teachers will certainly rise to the occasion."
With a 10-point grading system, students achieving a 90-100 would receive an "A." Students with an 80-89 would receive a "B." Students with a 70-79 would receive a "C."
Church proposed that the board eliminate the "D" grade, making a 69 and below a failing grade.
"With the 10-point grading scale, students would only have to get 10 percent above half to pass," said Church, stressing the negative impact that "passing with a 60-D" would have on students.
"We need to make sure we don't lose our higher expectations," said Crystal Naff (Blackwater).
About two years ago, the school board began reaching out to school principals, administration, guidance counselors, parents and the community to get a feel for their thoughts and opinions. The results from that inquiry showed that the majority was in favor of the 10-point grading scale.
Benjamin Franklin Middle School parents responded with 278 parents for the switch and 56 against it. All high school counselors responded positively towards the switch.
Responders of the inquiry felt that, in addition to a level playing field and increased opportunity for students, the 10-point scale would increase student confidence, lower student stress, increase motivation and self esteem, as well as change students' overall attitude towards teachers and school.
Those opposing the change felt the 10-point scale would decrease student effort and give them a false sense of achievement.
For struggling students, it may not be as visible when extra help is needed. Top achievers will become less "special" for the excellence in academics. They felt the switch would make education "too easy" and hide the true value of an "A" if all schools did not participate equally.
"When they (students) get out in the world, they will work harder and be better prepared because we've held them to higher standards," said Thad Montgomery (Boone District), who voiced reservations about making the switch.
The majority of responders to the inquiry felt that expectations would not be lowered since rigor in the classroom would probably increase if the 10-point scale were to be implemented.
The board tabled the discussion for now, but will address it again at its regular January meeting.
Comments and suggestions can be posted in the School Board's suggestion box on the school website, www.frco.k12.va.us. Click on the "Division" tab. The suggestion box is located on the right side of the page.