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Fredericksburg schools considering new grading scale

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Fredericksburg students may have a new grading scale at the beginning of the next school year.

The School Board heard a presentation Monday about a possible shift to a 10-point grading scale.

Under the new scale, students would receive an A for a score of 90 to 100. Now, middle and high school students in the city must earn a 94 or above to receive an A.

Spotsylvania, Stafford, Caroline and King George counties already use a 10-point grading scale.

Fredericksburg’s Lafayette Upper Elementary also already uses that scale. Walker–Grant Middle School and James Monroe High School use a 6-point grading scale, where 94 to 100 is an A.

Hugh Mercer Elementary uses an entirely different grading scale and would not be included in the proposal.

Deputy Superintendent Marci Catlett, who made the presentation with Director of Instruction Harry Thomas, said that if the School Board votes to switch to the new scale, school officials will then determine the values for letter grades and the weight of a student’s grade-point average.

According to the presentation, the advantages of moving to the new scale include consistency with surrounding school divisions and with most collegiate-level grading scales as well as uniformity within the city schools.

Disadvantages include the perception that the city is lowering its academic standards, and the adjustments that teachers and staff would need to make when assigning grades and coding them in the district’s computers.

Administrators surveyed 134 school divisions in Virginia about their grading scales. Of the divisions that responded, 44 use a 10-point grading scale and 66 do not, according to the presentation.

Regionally, administrators spoke with officials from Albemarle, Caroline, Charlottesville, Hanover, King George, Louisa, Orange, Prince William, Spotsylvania and Stafford.

Of those, Hanover is the only locality that does not use a 10-point scale.

Most reported that they elected to adopt the 10-point scale for consistency with other divisions, some Governor’s Schools and institutions of higher learning.

None of those divisions implemented the new grading scale retroactively, so grades earned under the old scale would remain as-is.

A common concern with switching to a new grading scale is the impact it will have on a student’s transcripts when he or she applies to college. Parents and students shouldn’t worry too much about that, said Marty Wilder, chief of staff at the University of Mary Washington and a former dean of enrollment and student services.

“From the many years I spent in admissions, in terms of how we review applications here at Mary Washington, we always looked at each student in context of his or her high school,” Wilder said.

He said that the grading scale used is taken into account, but it’s not as big a deal as some people may think.

“I think regardless of what the grading scale is, students from JM are going to be well-regarded in the applicant pool of colleges and universities throughout the state and beyond the state,” Wilder said.

John B. Gordon III, the principal of James Monroe High School, asked the board to make a decision by Feb. 15 so that if the new scale is selected, it can be implemented in time for next school year.

The School Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 4, when a vote is expected.

Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413

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