Union County students will experience new changes this school year, but UCPS staff says high school families don’t need to worry.
In October 2014, the North Carolina Board of Education approved a switch to a 10-point scale in all North Carolina high schools. The rationale for the switch came from a push by the state’s largest school districts, with the hope of simplifying the state’s grading system, decreasing grade inflation, leveling the playing field for college applications against other states’ students and encouraging students to take both college-level courses, as well as courses that don’t offer honors and advanced placement (AP) courses, such as art or band.
The change to the 10-point scale also will widen the range for each letter grade and lower the minimum passing score from 70 to 60.
“The real effect is what the state has done to our current freshmen coming in,” Director of Secondary Education Dr. Brad Breedlove said.
Breedlove said there are some misconceptions about the new grading scale, which the Union County Board of Education voted to approve for third to 12th grades in February, and he gathered information about the most common concerns:
Will the new grading scale apply to previous grades?
“No, it won’t. A grade is a grade and if it’s in there, it’s going to stand,” Breedlove said. The scale will not be applied to previous grades, but will start for incoming freshmen and classes as of July 1.
How will grade point averages (GPAs) be calculated for high school students?
Breedlove said GPAs will be calculated differently for 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade students than ninth-grade students. “It’s going to be a little more tight for our ninth-grade class than our upper-class students,” he said. The difference between the two calculations reflects honor and AP courses, Breedlove said.
The grade and quality-point scales for both upperclassmen and freshmen will remain the same for college-prep level standard course with a 4.0 scale, but differ with honors and AP courses with a 5.0 scale in honors courses and 6.0 in AP courses for upperclassmen and a 4.5 scale in honors and 5.0 scale in AP courses for incoming freshmen.
Why can’t the new weighted GPA scale change for all grade levels this year?
Outside of “because the Department of Public Instruction said so,” Breedlove said there are several reasons.
“There’s an old saying that, ‘You can’t swap horses in the middle of a river,’ because you’re going to fall in water,” he said.
Tenth-, 11th- and 12-grade students already have received their GPAs and Breedlove said if the district were to apply the new “rules” to the GPAs, it would drastically alter the students current GPAs – which could decrease current GPAs and affect class ranks.
Breedlove also said some students have already sent their transcripts to colleges and would alter already established records.
How will this affect the college admission process in UCPS?
High schools’ staff will provide an explanation of the change to all colleges students apply to when they publish and distribute their school profiles. Many colleges and universities in North Carolina know of the change in high schools and school staff will work to inform universities outside the state. The district also will include an explanation of the change on school transcripts for all students, Breedlove said.
Will colleges find the change confusing, which could have a negative impact on student admissions?
Breedlove says, “no,” as colleges are used to seeing students who have transferred from various schools throughout their high school careers and have multiple different scales.
He also said “colleges talk” and many are already aware of the statewide change, so admissions staff will not be confused.
Breedlove feels that as long as UCPS does its “due diligence” and communicates with area colleges and universities, Union County students will not see a negative impact from the new change and will have equal footing to other students.
The department of secondary education will send out a letter of notification to all third- through 12th-grade students to inform them of the change and to clear up any confusion about its effects, said Dr. John Jones, Jr., UCPS assistant superintendent of instructional programs.