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Former school board member questions grade equation

Reid Willams

FRISCO – When high school administrators and school board members tackled the question of how to equitably change the high school grading scale, they decided an F was an F was an F.

But now, a former school board member is asking if C’s became Bs under the new grade scale. Jim Wheeler, father of a Summit High School junior, told school board members Wednesday he questions whether grade discrimination is taking place. He said, in one example, his son earned a 64 percent in a class. After changing the grade scale, administrators changed the 64 on his son’s transcript to a 59. Wheeler said he agrees an F is an F, but wonders whether numbers were changed for other students who, say, earned an 82 percent.

Did administrators, for example, change that grade from a C to a B, he asked?

In June 2001, the Summit School Board approved a change in Summit High’s grading scale to fight grade inflation and help students maintain a competitive edge when applying for colleges. The old scale required a 93 percent for an A, 85 for a B, 75 for a C, and anything below 65 percent was failing. The new scale is 90-80-70-60.

School officials puzzled over whether to make the transition retroactive. A student completing his or her sophomore year, for example, would have two years of grades under the old scale and two yet to complete according to the new scale. School counselors crunched numbers and determined that a retroactive change, while keeping F’s as F’s, would reduce the number of C’s and D’s by 12 percent; the number of A’s and B’s would increase by the same proportion. In the end, officials elected to go back through student transcripts and change grades by hand.

“We asked for a transition plan, and this is what they came up with,” Superintendent Wes Smith said at Wednesday’s school board meeting. “And our (legal) counsel said this was legally defensible. But it’s obvious there are questions.”

Some school board members wonder if the grade scale shift is having other impacts on students’ records. Board member Dr. Garrett Sullivan suggested taking a numerical look at the student body’s performance.

“Can we look at what’s happening with GPA’s?” Sullivan asked. “What I mean is, can we see if the percentage of A’s is higher, etc.?”

Summit High School co-principal Peggy Kastberg said Friday a certain percentage of students did have grades that improved because of the change. She expected to be on the school board agenda within the month to present numerical breakdowns of how the grade scale change was implemented and its effects.

“It’s a different board than the one that approved the change,” Kastberg said, referring to the November school board elections. “I think we just need to go back and present it again.”

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or rwilliams@summitdaily.com.


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