Tupelo considers 10-point grading scale

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Tupelo school board may soon consider a switch to a 10-point grading scale, following the example of most districts in the state.
Tupelo High School Principal Jason Harris made a presentation recommending the switch during last week’s school board meeting. Harris cited an unequal playing field for Tupelo students who compete for scholarships against students in many other districts that operate on a 10-point system.
The board did not take action on the proposal on Tuesday.
Under Tupelo’s current grading scale, grades between 93 and 100 earn an A, 85-92 gets a B, 75-84 gets a C, 70-74 is a D and under 69 is failing. Under a straight 10-point grading scale, each grade ranges over 10 points, meaning 90 to 100 is an A.
Tupelo also could consider a modified 10-point scale. For instance, a 93-100 could be an A+, a 90-92 could be an A-, 87-89 would be a B+, etc. Pluses would be worth more points in terms of GPA, and minuses would be worth fewer points.
Of Mississippi’s 152 school districts, 132 of them use either a 10-point grading scale or a modified 10-point scale, Harris said. Forty percent of the state’s districts use a modified scale.
Grade-point average is often used to determine academic scholarships and eligibility for NCAA sports.
“I feel like I have to be an advocate for the students,” Harris said. “If my top kids are not on the same playing field as the other kids, I feel like I have to bring that to someone’s attention.”
The new scale may also encourage some students to take more advanced classes, Harris noted, as earning a 90 in such a class wouldn’t have the same impact on a grade-point average. It could also mean that fewer students fail and that more are able to earn diplomas, he said.
He argued that a new scale would not mean diminished standards.
“One drawback is that people say it is lowering standards or not as rigorous,” he said. “The teacher sets the rigor of a classroom, not the grading scale.”
If it decides to make a change, the district would need to consider whether it would change the scale for the entire district or just for the high school. Currently, second through 12th grades are on the same scale, while kindergarten and first-graders are rated excellent, satisfactory, needs improvement or unsatisfactory.
The district could switch to the new scale as early as the 2012-13 school year, but grades earned in past school years would not change.
Harris said that he polled the school’s faculty and that 100-percent of them were in favor of changing to either a 10-point scale or a modified 10-point scale. He said that he favors the modified scale.
“They said that we needed to do this a long time ago,” he said.