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State is weighing change to grading policy

December 23, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

EASTERN PANHANDLE - State Board of Education officials are considering adopting a policy that would force school officials throughout West Virginia to give weighted grades in some classes and implement a uniform grading scale.

The policy, if approved, would directly affect school districts in the Eastern Panhandle.

Berkeley County schools would be forced to start issuing weighted grades for Advanced Placement courses, something they do not currently do.

And Jefferson County would be forced to stop using its 10-point grading scale.

State Board of Education members probably will make a decision about the policy at their February meeting, said Pamela Cain, assistant superintendent for instruction and student services.

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If approved, the policy would take effect July 1, 2003.

Berkeley County ceased using weighted grades years ago, Assistant Superintendent Frank Aliveto said.

"There really wasn't a good reason to continue with weighted classes," Aliveto said.

A lot of colleges, including Shepherd, convert such grades to a four-point scale when considering admission, he said.

Karl Wolf, director of admissions at Shepherd College, said only around 25 to 30 percent of high schools use weighted grades, meaning not all students being considered for admission are on a level field. Even schools that use weighted grades can have different policies or systems than others using them, Wolf said.

Because of the inequities, for admissions purposes at Shepherd, all grades are looked at on a 4.0 scale, Wolf said.

Aliveto said enrollment in more difficult courses did not decline after school officials ceased giving weighted grades in them. He was a high school principal at the time.

Classes that were weighted in Berkeley County - and still are in other parts of the state - include Advanced Placement courses and higher-level math and science classes.

Twenty-two counties in the state use weighted grades, including Jefferson County. Jefferson only issues weighted grades in Advanced Placement courses, said Secondary Instruction Specialist Janice Kable, meaning that portion of the proposed policy would not affect the district.

It would affect Jefferson County's grading scale.

Under the proposed scale, an A would be an average of 93 to 100, a B would be 85 to 92, a C would be 75 to 84, a D would be 65 to 74 and an F would be an average of 64 or below.

Jefferson County teachers grade using a 10-point scale: An A grade is 90 to 100, a B is 80 to 90, and so on.

"I don't see the point" of the proposed scale, said Jefferson County Board of Education President Lori Stilley. "I really like the one we have now."

Although most "A" students receive a 93 or higher average, the proposed scale could be detrimental to students on the verge of a B or C, she said.

Because most colleges use a 10-point scale, Stilley said Jefferson's scale better prepares students for higher education, which should be a main goal of educators.

"I have never seen, in all my years in education, a good rationale for the tougher grades," Stilley said.

Jefferson officials noted their support for the 10-point scale in a letter sent to the state Board of Education office, Stilley said.

Berkeley County's grading scale is similar to the one being proposed. There, an A is 94 to 100, a B is 85 to 93, a C is 72 to 84, a D is 65 to 71, while 64 and below is an F.

Because less than half of the state's counties use weighted grades, the issue was related to the merit-based PROMISE Scholarship program.

A PROMISE Scholarship pays the tuition of a student who attends a state college or university. The student must maintain a 3.0 grade point average in high school and score at least a 21 on the ACT or at least 1,000 combined on the SAT.

Some have argued that children in counties without weighted grades are at a disadvantage because weighted grades can increase a student's GPA.

During a recent visit to the Eastern Panhandle, Gov. Bob Wise declined to speak about the weighted grades issue, saying it is up to the state Board of Education.

While the policy would put all counties on level ground regarding Advanced Placement courses, it leaves the door open in other areas.

If they choose to, county school boards could decide to issue weighted grades in other classes they deem appropriate.

The policy under consideration has been changed a few times, Cain said. A past version included a portion indicating all grades would be converted to a 4.0 scale for PROMISE Scholarship purposes, according to a story in October by The Associated Press.

In the latest version of the policy, posted on the state Department of Education's Web site, that idea is not mentioned.

Morgan County school officials also issue weighted grades, but messages left at the superintendent's office there were not returned.

To review a copy of the policy, go to http://wvde.state.wv.us

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