The State Board of Education voted Thursday to switch all high school students to the new 10-point grading scale this fall, reversing an earlier decision to phase in the change over three years.
Starting with the 2015-16 school year, all high school students, not just freshmen, will be on a 10-point grading scale in which scores between 90 and 100 earn an A. It will replace the seven-point grading scale in which scores between 93 and 100 earn an A.
The change will not be retroactive to grades from this school year or prior years. But state officials say they want future transcripts to list both numerical scores and letter grades and to note that the seven-point grading scale was used through the 2014-15 school year.
The change will affect the way grade-point averages, or GPAs, are calculated for transcripts and class rank. North Carolina is among the few states that set guidelines for high school grading scales and transcripts.
Parents and school officials had lobbied the state to drop the seven-point scale, saying it put North Carolina students at a disadvantage against college applicants graded on a 10-point scale.
The board had voted in October to begin the 10-point grading scale with the 2015-16 school year’s freshmen class. But with many classes containing students at multiple grade levels, opponents of phasing the change in noted that classmates with the same numerical score could get a different letter grade.
In making the change for all students starting this fall, board members said they were responding to the parents, students, teachers and superintendents who called it unfair to keep some students on the seven-point scale.
“It’s been a grass-roots movement,” State Board Chairman Bill Cobey said Wednesday. “We received thoughtful emails from many parents and students.”
Board members had said they didn’t want class rank for current high school students to be affected by a change in grading scales. For instance, a student who gets a 90 in biology this school year, earning a B, would suffer in class rank compared with a student whose 90 in biology next year would merit an A.
But Deputy State Schools Superintendent Rebecca Garland said superintendents argued those cases would be minimal compared with how often students in classes with multiple grade levels would get different letter grades for doing equal work. She said superintendents pointed to the potential effect on athletic eligibility, which is based on whether students have passed a majority of classes.
The 90 superintendents at the N.C. School Superintendents Association meeting in December unanimously backed having all high school students on the 10-point scale this fall.
“They felt that the pros of moving everybody to the 10-point grading scale next year outweighed the cons – which they recognized there are some,” Garland said.
The State Board is still going ahead with its decision to reduce the credit for taking Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and honors courses. That change still starts with freshmen this fall and won’t affect current high school students.