Making the grade? Are we being fair?
If you were doing the same work as a fellow employee and you found out that you had to do 20% more work than they did to avoid a “non-performing” rating on your annual review, would you think that was fair? I think it’s pretty obvious most of us wouldn’t. Yet that’s the situation faced by students in Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) and a local organization is working to get that fixed.
The issue is pretty basic. LCPS’s grading system is based on a 7-point scale, meaning that out of 100%, you need to score a 93% or higher to get an “A”. You drop a grade letter every 7 points below that. According to FairGrade Loudoun, a majority of school districts across the country use a 10-point scale, meaning that to get an “A”, you only need a 90% – a solid “B” in Loudoun. Their scale goes down every 10 points, leading to an increasing disparity between LCPS and the other school districts the lower the score goes. Here’s the detail:
As you can see, a student in LCPS must score 20% more points on a given assignment just to avoid failing. Two students taking the exact same class and scoring the exact same grades on all the tests, quizes, and assignments, will see different grades appear on their report cards depending on where they went to school. That wouldn’t be a big deal except that grade-point average is a critical discriminator for applying to college and being recognized for certain awards. An LCPS student with a class average of 91% would rate a “B” on her report card which would be counted as a “3″ in her grade-point average calculation. A student at a neighboring school district taking the same class and scoring the same 91% would be rated an “A” student, giving her a “4″ in her calculation. If all other classes in their high-school careers were to come in at the same grade letter, the LCPS student will then have a lower GPA which would absolutely affect the colleges she will qualify to enter.
To add insult to that injury, in order for her to achieve the same letter grades as her colleague in the other shcool, she’ll almost certainly have to work harder, as shown in the table above.
I don’t know if the 10-point system is, in fact, used by a majority of school districts in the US. It’s worth looking at, however, and if we find out that’s the case then we’re putting an unfair burden on our students. They have to compete with the students from other districts for college seats (and for jobs, for those who don’t go on to college). At my age, no one who looks at my resume could care less about where I went to school or what my GPA was. With no work experience to put on there, however, newly-graduated students don’t have much else with which to show their competence. We owe them a level playing field. It’s up to them to perform on it, but it shouldn’t be slanted against them.
The LCPS should certainly form that committee they’re discussing and look into the claim that more districts use the 10-point scale than the 7-point one. If they do, we should change ours to match.
(Whoops, forgot the FairGrade Loudoun link. Fixed!)