Grading scale debate draws crowd at Mercer County

Robert Blackford/Editor
More than 60 people attended the Mercer County School Board meeting April 28.

A group of about 60 people attended the April 28 meeting of the Mercer County School Board at the Intermediate School in Aledo, moving the meeting to the band room to accommodate the large crowd.

Many present expressed their concern about the current grading system used in the district. The current grading scale is 93-100 =A; 85-92=B; 84-77=C; 76-69=D and 68 and below=F.

Many parents would like the board to adopt a more lenient grading scale (90-100=A; 80-89=B; 70-79=C; 60-69=D and 60 and below=F).

Several parents spoke to the board including Jim Rillie. Rillie expressed the concern about the difficulty of securing scholarship money for his child to attend college next year. Rillie pointed out that with the current grading scale puts his child’s GPA at 3.33 instead of 3.67 (which it would have been with the lower grading scale). This makes the student less attractive to prospective colleges.

Rillie said all he was asking for was to put his student on an even playing field with other students competing to attend the same colleges. “The 93 scale is hurting the kids you want to help," he said.

Parent and instructor Rachel Fowler also said that her child now believes she can no longer do math. “Your grading scale is tearing kids down.”

The board tabled any decision on changes to the grading scale until the next meeting.

Mercer County Intermediate School principal Doug Nelson led the grading committee presentation. “The administration and building school representatives met several times to discuss grading topics," said Nelson.

As part of the research on the topic, Principal Nancy Robinson and instructor Britt Hagens spoke to about 12 colleges asking them several questions.

Their discussions with the colleges led them to several conclusions.

Grades are overwhelmingly important in regards to admissions criteria.  It is not a standard practice to ask students what the grading scale is at the high school they attend.

Colleges do not normally give students reasons why they are not admitted. There is normally a standard rejection letter that is sent out. 

High school grades are a big part of the scholarship process. Class rank is not high on this list.

Teacher Lori Crose told the board that she had 111 staff responses to a survey sent out. Eighty percent of the staff is in favor of the lower grading scale.

Four hundred and forty-three parents responded to a survey, with 88 percent in favor of the lower grading scale.

Committee member Traci Cook gave the pros of each system. She noted that the higher grading scale produced higher expectations for the students. The committee also felt the higher grading scale would toughen up the student.

Cook said the lower grading scale made it easier for students to get scholarships, that there wasn’t as much pressure on the students and that some students shy away from studying with the higher scale.

Board member Trisha Hank said that as a parent with a freshmen in high school her 92 percent student has turned to an 88 percent student with the current grading scale.

Hank added “as a school board member we consult and follow recommendations. Absolutely we should consider what our education experts a recommending.” 

The audience responded to Hanks’ comments with a round of applause.

Board member Steve Willits countered with, “There are some places we need to improve on. My goal for a student is that they successfully complete college in four years. I don’t know what that is now but I don’t think it is anything to be proud of.”

Fowler added, “You have all these initiatives but they are not working together. You don’t need this grading scale."