Almost three years ago the state made changes to its high school grading system, and the new way has caused some unforeseen issues in class ranking.
In January 2015, the State Board of Education voted to switch from the old 7-point grade scale to a 10-point system similar to how colleges grade.
Some parents and school officials had been lobbying the state for the switch because they felt the old way was giving students in more lenient states an unfair advantage when applying to colleges. A 92 would be a B+ in North Carolina, but an A in some other states.
Others argued that this made it easier to skate by and still pass since a 60 would earn a D whereas the old scale demanded a 70 or higher.
At the same time, the way that grade point averages were calculated also changed, noted Dr. Phillip Brown, Mount Airy City Schools’ executive director of teaching and learning.
Under the previous system, every point mattered as it would affect the GPA by a fraction. For example, scoring 96 or higher was a perfect 4.0, but one point lower at a 95 would drop the GPA for the class to 3.85.
Now the high school uses a flat number for each letter grade. An A is worth 4 points whether it is a 91 or 99.
While this has simplified the math for calculating class ranks, Brown told the city Board of Education that the system does lend itself to future issues.
The GPA system didn’t go into effect for every student at the same time. Those who were already in high school under the old system were grandfathered in. Only the incoming freshmen in August 2015 were put in the new flat-point scale.
Those students are now juniors, noted Brown. One student is in sole possession of first place in class ranking, but six other students are in a tie for second place, he said.
This system could create issues if multiple students tie for first or second place come graduation, he explained. The school district needs a policy in place to determine how to handle such ties in order to name the valedictorian and salutatorian for the graduation ceremony.
Some schools have tried having co-valedictorians, but none of the board members seemed very satisfied with this approach.
When the idea was kicked around school and office personnel, Brown said two ideas emerged. One was that for ties, the ranking could go back to the old system of each point on the grade having an impact.
The second idea was to create a rubic including extracurriculars, community service, etc., he said.
One of the points raised was that grades can be quite subjective, said Dr. Kim Morrison, school superintendent. The grade can vary depending on the severity of the class and the way that the teacher grades assignments and tests. There is also the point that a lot of students are choosing to take dual-credit courses through the community college, and those instructors have different expectations.
So, the idea was formed to look at how involved a student is in the school and community. How many clubs and activities at school does the student join?
At the high school graduates are expected to volunteer 50 hours of service to the community, said Morrison. If a student doesn’t reach that goal, should that person be knocked down lower in ranking?
After further discussion, the consensus of the board members was that they felt more comfortable leaving the ties up to the mathematical formula of the old system.
• On Nov. 20, the school district will host the next meeting of the Surry County Board of Commissioners.
The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in Mount Airy Middle School.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.