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MADISON COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Grade Scale Review Committee Final Report
January 2010

Grade Scale Review Committee Background The MCPS Grade Scale Review Committee was formed in the spring of 2009 at the request of Dr. Brenda Tanner, Superintendent of Schools. The Committee came together as a response to parental concerns about the current grade scale in use in MCPS and in light of changes to the grade scales in both Loudoun and Fairfax Counties. The concern raised was that the grade scale used in MCPS results in unfair comparisons between the MCPS students and students in other districts who use what could be considered a less stringent scale. MCPS currently uses a mostly seven‐point scale, whereas districts like Albemarle and Fairfax use a mostly ten‐ point scale. Essentially, the concern was that in some cases students in MCPS could be unfairly compared to a student in a district that uses a ten‐point scale. For example, if Student A from MCPS and Student B from Fairfax both earned grades of 92 they would equate differently in terms of GPA (MCPS=B+ and Fairfax=A‐). If these students were compared for something like college admissions the MCPS student could be viewed as weaker in terms of GPA even though the percentage grade is the same. At first glance, the decision to change to a ten‐point grading scale seems simple. However, the issue is much more complex than simply comparing scales of surrounding districts and choosing the one that fits Madison. A change in scale could enhance the possibilities for MCHS students. It is important that MCPS provide students with an accurate picture of their performance based on federal, state, and local standards. To be sure that this is done, it is important to understand all the facts surrounding our current grade scale, other districts' scales, and how colleges and other post‐secondary schools use or do not use scale comparisons for admissions. This brief will cover these topics and attempt to provide facts surrounding these issues along with potential consequences for keeping and for changing the MCPS grade scale. The Process of the Committee The MCPS Grade Scale Committee first met on 5/18/09. The committee started by outlining its mission and then by developing some processes for researching the issue in greater detail. The committee agreed to review the report published by Fairfax County Public Schools regarding the research into their own scale (http://www.fairgrade.net/media/fairgrade/GradingPolicyInvestigationReport.pdf) and to reconvene in August to develop further plans for research and stakeholder feedback. At the August meeting the Fairfax research was reviewed and the Committee developed a timeline for gathering stakeholder feedback and for reviewing this feedback and exploring further questions. The calendar for these activities is outlined below: August 17—Information Handout August 19—Information Handout goes out with Back‐to‐School Packets August—Article in Madison Eagle and on NBC 29 Sept. 3—Information Meeting Sept. 5—Taste of the Mountains Info/Handout Oct. 9—Town Hall Oct. 15—Information Handout at P/T Conferences Nov. 16—Develop Report for Superintendent (revised due to continued research, final report in December) Despite newspaper and television news stories as well as fliers, the public meetings to review the grade scale research and to answer questions were poorly attended. The first hosted two parents and the second hosted two more. Other feedback from parents and guardians has not been received except from those who serve on the committee. The committee has continued to research, ask questions, and discuss the issue throughout the process.

Our Current Scale A+ 99‐100 A 96‐98 A‐ 94‐95 B+ 92‐93 B 89‐91 B‐ 87‐88 C+ 85‐86 C 82‐84 C‐ 80‐81 D+ 78‐79 D 75‐77 D‐ 70‐74 F 0‐69 How would a change impact our students? A review of MCHS student grade comparisons was done and the results are displayed in the chart on the following page. The group reflects a random sampling of current high school students. Committee discussion resulted in the following observations: • The most significant GPA impact seems to be with students who are achieving B/C grades. • Students with an A+ average may be better off under our current system; the comparison scale does not have an A+. • Does our weighting need to be adjusted for consistency?

%

MCHS current letter A A A A C C+ C‐ D‐ D B B‐ A A C+ B B+ B+ A+ A‐ A D C D B+ B C‐ A A‐ A D+ A D‐ A F F B A B+ B A+ A A A

Student 1 Student 2 Student 3 Student 4 Student 5 Student 6 Student 7 Student 8 Student 9 Student 10 Student 11

98 98 96 96 83 85 81 73 77 90 87 97 96 86 90 92 93 99 94 96 75 82 75 92 89 80 96 95 98 78 96 70 97 61 65 89 96 93 91 99 98 98 96

MCHS current GPA equiv. 4 5 5 4 2 2.3 1.7 0.7 1 3 2.7 4 4 2.3 3 4.3 4.3 5.3 4.7 4 1 2 1 3.3 3 2.7 4 3.7 4 1.3 4 0.7 4 0 0 3 4 3.3 4 4.3 5 5 4

GPA

%

4.5

2

1.85

3.33

4.65

2

3.25

3.25

1.18

3.58

4.58

98 98 96 96 83 85 81 73 77 90 87 97 96 86 90 92 93 99 94 96 75 82 75 92 89 80 96 95 98 78 96 70 97 61 65 89 96 93 91 99 98 98 96

10 pt. 10 pt. scale scale letter GPA equiv. A 4 A 5 A 5 A 4 B 3 B 3 B‐ 2.7 C 2 C+ 2.3 A‐ 3.7 B+ 3.3 A 4 A 4 B 3 A‐ 3.7 A‐ 4.7 A 5 A 5 A 5 A 4 C 2 B‐ 2.7 C 2 A‐ 3.7 B+ 3.3 B‐ 3.7 A 4 A 4 A 4 C+ 2.3 A 4 C‐ 1.7 A 4 F 0 D 1 B+ 3.3 A 4 A 4 A‐ 4.7 A 4 A 5 A 5 A 4

10 pt. GPA

4.5

2.9

2.825

3.675

4.925

2.675

3.675

3.575

1.675

4

4.5

Teacher Perceptions The Committee solicited feedback from teachers in MCPS. The survey received a response rate of close to 25%. The results are outlined below and can be viewed at: http://spreadsheets.google.com/a/madisonschools.k12.va.us/gform?key=0AqpISpwo5cMqdGh2OGtuLXRWMl 9hckRweVZiVGxpcEE&hl=en&gridId=0#chart What level of students do you teach? Primary School Elementary School Middle School High School Have you taught on a 10‐point scale before? 6 14% 9 21% 10 24% 17 40%

Yes 14 33% No 29 67% Have you been assessed on a 10‐point scale?

Yes 35 81% No 8 19% How educated do you feel about the issue of a change in the grade scale in MCPS?

Very Uninformed

1 ‐ Very Uninformed 7 16% 2 3 7% 3 15 35% 4 12 28% 5 ‐ Very Informed 6 14%

Very Informed

Based on what you know about the issue of the current grade scale in MCPS versus a change in the grade scale, are you for or against a change in the scale? For 28 65% Against 15 35% Feedback from teachers also included the following comments based on survey questions: Question: What potential positive outcomes for our students do you see in a change to the grade scale? (Responses have been edited to remove some redundancies.)
• • •

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

It will level the playing field for our students as they compete with students from other divisions that use a 10 point scale, particularly when it comes to applying for scholarships. Boost in self‐confidence. They can compete with other schools that have a 10‐point grading scale. Colleges are so competitive that this could help those right on the bubble of getting into harder schools to get into to. I think the DE classes are already 10 point. It would be more standardized if they moved to a school system that uses a 10‐point scale. It also allows them to compete for college spots with students who are currently on a 10‐point scale. College‐bound students would be on the same level playing field when it comes to GPA Easier to grade on a ten point scale. Grades will rise; more A and B Less students receiving an F More students on the honor roll Easier to calculate scores and determine standing. Less negative impact for receiving a borderline grade. Easier to compare with state‐wide or nation‐wide schools. Fairness and accurate reflection of their earned grades. The positive outcome will be that your D students now become your C students and so forth. I think it would make our students more competitive when applying for admission to college. I often wonder if colleges look at the grade scale for each student ‐ I seriously doubt it. Our students will become more competitive for college admissions. Obviously grades will improve and with that comes increased confidence. It also levels the playing field with students from surrounding schools. They will have higher letter grades. For our college‐bound students, this makes Madison County more competitive with other students. Most colleges tend to look at the GPA, giving little regard to the scale. For the students who are struggling to pass but are working hard, this would give them the chance to have more positive experiences in the educational setting. I do not feel that we are "handing out" grades, but rather making ourselves more comparable to other grading systems. After all, most secondary institutions grade on a 10 point scale. Overall better grades to add in college admissions. If other nearby school systems are using a 10‐point scale, then it only seems fair that our grading scale be the same. All students in our area are in competition for scholarships and admission at colleges and universities. Students working with a tougher grading scale may look like less able students when, in fact, the opposite could well be true.

• • •

• • • • • •





More aligned with other institutions; will make the school system seem better even when the kids are providing the same amount of work for a higher grade Our children will look as if they are brighter. It could make some students feel empowered by finding success at 60% and possibly lead them to work harder. If students can sense that an assessment is a measurement of competency and not just a grade, then it would be a positive thing. A grade scale change involves much more than numbers. More opportunities for scholarships, etc. More equal footing for college applications It will benefit everyone It would certainly make it easier for students to score higher and the scale would be much easier for the students to remember. A 10‐point scale will certainly increase class‐averages and potentially decrease student frustration. I have experience with a 10‐point scale both as a teacher and as a student. If it is a 10 point scale, students and parents do not see this scale as severe as the current one we use. Often in p/t conferences I've had parents dismiss the letter grade because they don't think it's fairly associated with the number grade ‐‐ especially for the 81/C‐. I think that kids in high school (and even as far back as WYES students) will feel more confident in themselves with a greater chance to be an A or B student. I think they will feel more like college‐ material and not just an average, C student. It will be comparing apples to apples when it comes to our students applying to colleges.

Question: What potential negative outcomes do you see for our students in a change to the grade scale? (Responses have been edited to remove some redundancies.)
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •



I don't really see any negative outcomes. Students not working as hard... happy with the 80, as long as they can consider that it is really a B. Not sure of any. Initially at least, the feeling that they do not have to work as hard ‐ that we have lowered our standards. At this time, I don't see any negative outcomes. Lowering of standards. Some students will be on the current scale while others are on the 10 point. Teachers may assess harder to circumvent the 10‐point scale. DE and AP courses would not be weighted. Grade inflation. Lower standards for passing Lower expectations for students and teachers A false impression of achievement A loss of pride in getting on the honor roll Maybe a decrease in SOL and SAT/ACT scores Temporary confusion Some may think that they don't need to apply themselves as much to get a good grade. Some teachers may not revise grading and grades will be inflated No negatives at this time. You may possibly see a decrease in effort from some students because the criteria aren’t as high. I think that some people might say that students might not work as hard. I don't believe this to be true. Many, many school districts use 10‐point grading scales and don't have a higher percentage of unmotivated students. For the students who are satisfied with a D, a change to the 10 point scale would mean they're expecting less from themselves than ever before.



• •

• • • • • •

Conversely, I worry about how well our students do once they get into college now. I'm not sure they do as well as we think they do, or are as well pre‐pared, on the whole, as we think they are. I worry that a change to a 10‐point grading scale could cause even more students to have a false sense of their preparedness for college. Has anyone ever studied this issue of how our students do after leaving MCHS? Less rigor Our students are already not all held to the highest standards, and if the rules are changed to passing being a 60%, that's not showing much overall comprehension of the subject they are supposedly trying to master. Our children will not be held to a high standard. An increase of students just getting by. Teachers' attitude that there is no rigor left in the classroom. It may seem as though we are lowering our standards, the student who may be failing would possibly end up with a high D or C for doing the same thing they are doing for earning an F I feel the change could encourage some students to put in less effort. Students may realize that they can skate by with doing less because switching from a stricter scale to a 10‐point scale will mean better grades for everyone, at first. It would be less challenging for a student to get a higher grade.

Question: How would a change to the grade scale affect your daily work? (Responses have not been edited.)
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

It won’t affect my daily work. It wouldn't. I think I'd have to work harder to convince students to strive for excellence. It would not I don't think so ‐ I do not give grades. A change wouldn't greatly affect my daily work as I work with students with moderate to severe disabilities and they are graded based on their work productivity on a very modified curriculum. It would affect it very little. The scale in the internet‐based grade book would need to be updated. More points would be deducted. No curves. No dropping of low grades. Teachers will adjust their tests to make them harder Teachers will grade harder Teachers will have a lot of A's and no F's Only for grading purposes. There would be no change. I personally would like the change. I would have to make some changes ‐ it would not be daily ‐ just once It would not affect my work. Not at all at the Primary School. It really won't affect my daily work because we do not give grades at the primary school. It wouldn't change my work; I would be in favor of it, so that my students have an equal chance of getting an A as they do a B, C, or D. It wouldn't! It makes grading a bit easier. Would not affect it at all It does not affect my daily work. It might take an adjustment at first, to perhaps change formulas in Excel spreadsheets, but after that, there will be no change. Would not affect. I would find ways to raise my performance expectations to counteract the the potential for decreased personal expectations.

• • • • •

• • •

It would not. I don't think it would. I will have to evaluate my assessments to include more ways of demonstrating understanding and independent thinking. I don't think it would affect my daily work, though I may be encouraged to grade certain subjective assignments (i.e. skills test, use of rubrics etc.) more stringently. It wouldn't really change what I do in class, but it may possibly decrease the amount of low to failing grades that I have to keep up with in terms of parent contacts, student meetings, extra credit, tutoring, etc. At this time, it would not. It wouldn't change my work at MPS. It wouldn't.

Grading Scales from Various Local School Districts Albemarle County A 90‐100 B 80‐89 C 70‐79 D 60‐69 F 0‐59 Clarke County A+ 98‐100 A 95‐97 A‐ 92‐94 B+ 89‐91 B 86‐88 B‐ 83‐85 C+ 80‐82 C 77‐79 C‐ 74‐76 D+ 71‐73 D 68‐70 D‐ 65‐67 F 0‐64 Nelson County A 93‐100 B 85‐92 C 77‐84 D 69‐76 F 0‐68 Charlottesville A 91‐100 B 81‐90 C 71‐80 D 61‐70 F Below 61 Greene County A 92‐100 B 83‐91 C 74‐82 D 65‐73 F 0‐64 Louisa County A 93‐100 B 86‐92 78‐85 C D 70‐77 F 0‐69

Culpeper County & Fluvanna County A+ 100 A 94‐99 A‐ 93 B+ 92 B 86‐91 B‐ 85 C+ 84 C 78‐83 C‐ 77 D+ 76 D 71‐75 D‐ 70 0‐69 F Orange County A 93‐100 B 85‐92 C 77‐84 D 70‐76 F 0‐69 Patrick Henry A 93‐100 B 85‐92 C 75‐84 D 65‐74 F 0‐64 Rappahannock County A 93‐100 B 85‐92 C 77‐84 D 70‐76 F 0‐69

Superintendent’s Survey of District Grading Scales Information below is sorted by population size of students in grades 9‐12 Considering # of Enrollment County 10‐point Grading 10‐point High in Gr 9‐12 Scale Grading Scale Schools in County Fairfax County Y 32 53,907 Virginia Beach City N Y 11 22,854 Prince William County Y 10 22,299 Chesterfield County 11 18,847 Loudoun County Y 10 15,467 Henrico County N N 9 15,347 Chesapeake City N no response 7 13,381 Newport News City 5 9,328 Norfolk City 5 9,187 Stafford County Y 5 9,014 Spotsylvania County N no response 5 7,844 Hampton City 4 6,743 Richmond City 7 6,238 Hanover County 4 6,196 Arlington County N grading scale 3 5,558 Roanoke County N Y 5 4,917 York County N N 4 4,392 Portsmouth City N N 3 4,322 Suffolk City 3 4,190 Frederick County N Y 3 4,163 Albemarle County 4 4,110 Rockingham County 3 3,621 Roanoke City 2 3,610 Fauquier County 3 3,572 Augusta County 5 3,478 Bedford County 3 3,452 Williamsburg/James City 3 3,397 Alexandria City Y 1 3,010 Montgomery County 4 2,901 Pittsylvania County N N 4 2,826 Campbell County N Y 4 2,770 Lynchburg City 2 2,628 Washington County 4 2,387 Henry County 2 2,245 Franklin County 1 2,214 Culpeper County N Y 2 2,196 Tazewell County N N 3 2,069 Wise County 6 2,060 Shenandoah County 3 2,023 Gloucester County N Y 1 1,994 Danville City N N 3 1,953

Overall Enrollment K‐12

70,230 58,491 48,285 29,508 32,215 26,443 24,067 21,836 18,669 18,671 14,730 12,779 14,501 12,939 12,595 11,536 11,167 10,714 10,249 11,082 9,549 8,422 7,314 7,194 7,276 6,540 5,924 6,303

Manassas City Prince George County Halifax County Isle of Wight County Warren County Accomack County Orange County Dinwiddie County Smyth County Pulaski County Louisa County Botetourt County Amherst County Mecklenburg County Powhatan County Petersburg City Wythe County Harrisonburg City Salem City Charlottesville City Russell County King George County Caroline County Scott County Carroll County Winchester City Fluvanna County Hopewell City Page County Rockbridge County Lee County Buchanan County Colonial Heights City Poquoson City Southampton County New Kent County Waynesboro City Greene County Fredericksburg City Staunton City Alleghany County Prince Edward County Dickenson County Patrick County Martinsville City Greensville / Emporia Giles County Goochland County Clarke County Buckingham County

Y N N N N N Y N N N N N N N Y N N N N Y N

N N N N N N N N

N

N

Y

N N N N N

N Y N N Y

N N Y N

N no response N

1 1 1 2 2 3 1 1 3 1 1 2 1 2 1 1 3 1 1 1 3 1 1 3 1 1 1 1 2 1 2 4 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 3 1 1 1 2 1 1 1

1,917 1,861 1,830 1,744 1,738 1,597 1,586 1,582 1,576 1,575 1,525 1,506 1,489 1,473 1,437 1,371 1,360 1,290 1,286 1,246 1,246 1,241 1,203 1,190 1,185 1,157 1,155 1,132 1,106 1,035 1,034 1,033 917 912 909 895 876 840 832 815 807 804 786 786 785 779 768 766 763 704

6,156 5,730 5,388 5,019 5,144 4,885 4,746 4,621 4,583 4,670 4,421 4,382 4,337 3,966 4,093 4,116 3,767 3,957 3,761 3,639 3,545 2,772 3,279 2,884 2,761 2,738 3,024 2,801 2,632 2,484 2,453 2,575 2,596 2,581 2,155 1,988

Bristol City Nottoway County Charlotte County Appomattox County Manassas Park City Brunswick County Grayson County Falls Church City King William County Madison County Floyd County Westmoreland County Nelson County Amelia County Essex County Northampton County Cumberland County Lunenburg County Lancaster County Middlesex County Radford City Mathews County Northumberland County Franklin City Sussex County Richmond County Galax City Buena Vista City Surry County Bland County Rappahannock County Charles City County Covington City Bath County Norton City King & Queen County West Point Town Craig County Colonial Beach Town Highland County Bedford City Fairfax City Lexington City

N N Y Y

N N

Y N N N N N N N Y N Y

N N N N N N N N

N N

N N

N N N

N N N

N

N

N Attend Y

N

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

700 693 686 667 665 656 655 649 639 617 613 569 568 562 532 511 496 496 455 451 442 438 433 429 408 393 371 341 316 314 298 297 264 258 254 252 236 217 192 100

2,316 2,235 2,186 2,424 2,097 2,021 1,958 1,821 2,064 1,741 1,935 1,599 1,457 1,622 1,239 1,478 1,250 1,226 1,213 1,311 1,151 986 921 859 867 695 765 770 695 576 258 491

College/Post‐Secondary Use The FCPS Survey of College Admissions Practices outlined the factors that affect college admission decisions, awards of merit‐based scholarships, and placement into college‐level honors programs. These findings are outlined below. Invitations to participate in the survey were sent to 104 colleges with complete responses returned by 64 colleges (response rate of 62 percent). • The 10‐point grading scale and letter grades are the most common grading scales observed in the applicant pools of colleges surveyed. The 6‐, 7‐, and 8‐point grading scales are the least common grading scales seen by survey respondents. The 10‐point grading scale is found more commonly by out‐ of‐state colleges compared to Virginia colleges, by private colleges compared to public colleges, and by colleges with less than a 50 percent acceptance rate compared to less selective colleges. • Fifty‐five (55) percent of colleges responding do not recalculate GPAs. High school grading scales and weights, rigor of courses, and school GPA distribution are the most important factors considered by these colleges when comparing applicants for college admissions. • Forty‐five (45) percent of the colleges recalculate applicants’ GPAs. Of these colleges, 62 percent use grades from core courses, and 38 percent drop the plus and minus from grades.

An MCPS Grade Scale Review Committee member did an informal survey of twenty colleges and universities (all on a 4.0 system). Only 4 adjusted grades received on a 4.4 scale to a 4.0. All of the colleges indicated that the GPA was the single most important factor in their admissions policy followed by class rank and SAT scores.

Conclusion: After review of the information, the MCPS Grade Scale Committee’s findings support the School Board’s consideration of revising the current grade scale. The evidence suggests that a 10‐point scale would make MCHS students more competitive in college admissions and academic scholarship considerations. An implementation plan would be needed.…...

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