'We want our kids to succeed': Mascoutah School District adopts new grading scale

News-DemocratJune 14, 2013 

Is a 91 on a school assignment an A or a B? It depends on what grading scale the school uses.

At a Mascoutah public school this past year, a 91 would have been a B. However, next school year, that same grade will be an A.

Mascoutah School District 19 school board has approved changing its grading scale for all students, kindergarten through 12th grade. The district will now award letter grades based on the following 10-point grading scale: A, 90-100; B, 80-89; C, 70-79; D, 60-69; and F, 0-59.

Assistant Superintendent Kyle Freeman said the district previously used the following six-point grading scale: A, 94-100; B, 87-93; C, 77-86; 70-76, D; and 0-69, F.

"We can still maintain high standards and change the grading scale," he said. "They (teachers) want to still have very high standards that our kids can reach but do it in a way that parents can better understand."

A 20-member committee of parents, teachers, students and principals was formed earlier this year after parents expressed concern about the district's grading scale.

"Over the years, we have seemed to get a lot of concerns from parents," Freeman said.

Mascoutah School District has a mobile student population given its close proximity to Scott Air Force Base, and parents often express concern about the difference between grading scales used at Mascoutah schools and other schools throughout the United States, according to Freeman.

He said a lot of school districts in the nation use the 10-point grading scale. The committee examined 44 different school districts in Illinois and found over half -- 25 -- use the 10-point scale.

Belleville East, Belleville West, East St. Louis and O'Fallon Township high schools all use the 10-point grading scale. However, Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville does not. At Althoff, an A is 92.5 to a 100, a B is 84.5 to 92.49 and so on.

Some junior high and grade school districts in the area use an eight or six-point grading scale. O'Fallon School District 90 and Belleville School District 118 both uses a six-point grading scale where 94 to 100 is an A, 86 to 93 is a B and so on. Belle Valley School District 119 uses an eight-point grading scale where 92 to 100 is an A, 85 to 91 is a B and so on.

The crux of the problem lies at the high-school level, according to Freeman, as grades are tied to college scholarships and admissions. A survey of university admissions and scholarship requirements found most look at a student's ACT score and GPA, he said.

In addition to researching different grading scales, the committee conducted online surveys of students, parents and faculty members. More than 1,200 individuals responded.

Freeman said a majority of students and community members who responded -- more than 70 percent -- felt the 10-point grading scale had a "negative impact on college admissions and scholarships."

The committee recommended the grading-scale change to the board, and the school board approved the change at its meeting in May.

The decision was made, Freeman said, "to address the perception that our students are being negatively impacted by the six-point grading scale."

Freeman described the 10-point grading scale as a "more standardized version. We want our kids to succeed," he said.

Weighted grades

The school board also approved adopting a weighted grading system for Mascoutah High School students. With the adoption of weighted grades, high school students taking advanced placement or honors classes will have additional weight added to their grades.

Freeman said one additional point will be added for students who successfully complete an advanced placement or an honors class with a grade of A, B, C or D.

An A in a class typically equals four points for a student's GPA; however, next year that A will garner a student 5 points if its in an honors or advanced placement course.

Like the grading scale committee, a weighted grading committee was formed with 14 members to study the issue. Junior and senior students were surveyed.

"Kids felt they had a disadvantage when it came to GPAs," Freeman said, if they took an honors or advanced placement course.

The committee recommended adopting a weighted grading system for high school students, and the board approved it in May.

Belleville School District 201 has weighted grades based on the academic difficulty of the course, according to Superintendent Jeff Dosier. He said high school students who take honors classes have 0.250 added to their GPA and 0.10 for advanced courses.

At Althoff High School, students who take honors and advanced placement classes get an additional 1.87 added to their GPA if they receive an A, B or C in the course.

The weighted grades at Mascoutah High School will provide "more of an incentive for kids to take advanced courses," Freeman said. "The hope is weighted grades will increase the need for those courses."

Information regarding the grading scale change and the adoption of a weighted grading system will be provided to parents and students during school registration in August.

Effect on college admissions

The grading scale change will have "little to no" impact for the students applying to attend McKendree University in Lebanon, according to Chris Hall, vice president for admission and financial aid at McKendree.

Hall explained the university receives applications from students who live across the United States, and there's no standard grading scale and the university adjusts accordingly.

He said the university looks at all the information provided including GPA, ACT and SAT scores, class rank, courses taken in high school and student's interests and talents.

"We are trying to access for every applicant," Hall said to determine if the "student is prepared academically to thrive at McKendree."

A weighted grading system for high school students who take advanced placement and honors classes will benefit them, according to Hall.

"It will certainly probably be a benefit for the student through admissions and scholarships," he said.

Like McKendree, Scott Belobrajdic at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville said university officials consider both a student's standardized test score on an examine like the ACT and the student's GPA.

Belobrajdic, associate vice chancellor for enrollment management, said the ACT score allows the university to compare a student's performance on the national level and the GPA illustrates how the student performed at their particular high school. "We try to balance the two," he said.

In addition, Belobrajdic said SIUE will also look at how students perform in specific courses, and what classes they took.

A student's weighted GPA will be converted to a 4.0 scale, according to Belobrajdic.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

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