Franklin Regional board may change grading scale, broaden range
Franklin Regional school director Paul Scheinert hoped students were benefiting from having a more rigorous grading system where “A” grades (the district uses a plus/minus system as well) range from 92 to 100%, “B” grades range from 82 to 91% and so on.
But seeking to give students a more-level playing field when it comes to college admissions scrutiny, administrators are proposing changing to a “base 10” system, which would mean an “A” is 90 to 100%, a “B” is 80 to 89% and so on.
“I believe this change is long overdue,” high school Principal Ron Suvak said. “I believe it will help our kids explore areas of academic passion and not worry about a point or two in a class.”
Scheinert was initially concerned that the change meant the district was “relaxing the (grading) standard.”
“My opinion is that if an A is 92 or higher, and it becomes 90 or higher, we’ve relaxed the standard,” Scheinert said. “And I’d fight to maintain it if I thought it was doing us some benefit. But what I’ve heard is that it does us no benefit.”
For school board member and curriculum committee chair Jane Tower, changing the scale does not lower any standards.
“For me, the major reason was, we don’t want our kids to have ‘tunnel vision’ and be so focused on science or whatever, but not on ‘soft skills,’ ” she said. “We hear about the ‘almighty GPA’ and about students who might not take a particular course because it might affect the ‘almighty GPA’ and their class ranking.
“Giving them an opportunity to take that class without worrying about its effect on their GPA is what sold me on this.”
Board President Dr. Larry Borland agreed.
“It isn’t a relaxing of the standards, it’s making the standards more consistent,” Borland said. “I really don’t want to see kids who are completely focused and driven to have a high GPA take courses just to increase a number. That’s not the goal for our education.”
Suvak said what the district is proposing “is far more in line with what the majority of high schools report.”
For William Barnes, assistant dean of admissions at Saint Vincent College, the quality of a school’s curriculum is more important than what grading system they may use.
“There isn’t one standard transcript across the board. Every one is different,” Barnes said. “So you look at a variety of things. You have a district like Franklin Regional, which is one of the highest ranked in the region. So we look at the quality of the curriculum and the coursework.”
Barnes said many districts still use the system Franklin Regional employs.
“Some districts are even more restrictive. Their ‘A’ starts at 93 percent,” he said. “Others don’t tell us what their system is at all — we only get the percentage.”
Brett Freshour, vice president for enrollment management at Seton Hill University, agreed.
“As we’re making admission decisions, the main thing we’re trying to determine is: based on a student’s body of work, can they be successful? I don’t think (changing a grading system) will affect it that much,” Freshour said.
Assistant Superintendent Mary Catherine Reljac said changing the percentage range for grades will not change teachers’ expectations for students or course rigor in general.
“The grades are nebulous in that respect,” Reljac said. “We hope that by doing this, we’re not changing academically, we’re just helping our students to better compete with others in the academic realm.”
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .