Hanover parents push for switch to 10-point grading scale

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A group of parents in Hanover County are pushing for the school system to switch to a 10-point grading scale.

They say the current seven-point scale is outdated and puts Hanover students at a disadvantage.

Karen Rountree has two daughters in Hanover County schools. She wrote a letter to Dr. Michael Gill, the Hanover County Schools superintendent, on behalf of all parents in favor of changing the grading scale. In the letter, she cites other Virginia localities that use the 10-point system, including Chesterfield, King William, and Fairfax.

“This is not a level playing field, and is not fair for our students who work so hard,” Rountree said. “With the same grades across two districts, one student clearly has an advantage. This means fewer college acceptance letters, less scholarship money awarded, and fewer NCAA-eligible athletes for Hanover County in comparison to a district just across the river.”

In October 2016, the Hanover County School Board asked the superintendent to form a committee that would focus on potentially changing the grading scale. Another work session on the topic is set for March 20.

Hanover County School Board Chair John Axselle III, said the Board are carefully considering the matter.

“This is a very complex issue that has the potential to impact over 18,000 students and their parents, which the Hanover County School Board takes very seriously,” Axselle said. “We are carefully considering this matter and will continue to take a very deliberate approach to ensure all perspectives and considerations are taken into account. We intend to honor our process, which has consistently yielded sound decision-making and exceptional outcomes for many years.”

Below isRountree’s full letter to the superintendent:

Dear Dr. Gill,

As a loving and concerned parent of two daughters in Hanover County Schools, I think it is incredibly important to let you know of my support, and the support of many parents in favor of changing our current 7-point grading system to a 10-point grading system.

The request to give our students a level playing field isn’t a recent development. This has been on the radar for quite some time, so asking for a decision to be made at this point is far from premature. In the past two years, you can find this topic on public agendas, and it has been reviewed at planning retreats for the School Board.

To see that King William was able to see the state and national trend, understand the implications for students, and make a swift decision to adopt a new grading scale has created frustration among many parents who have been trying to be patient, in the hope that our Hanover County school board would soon make the right decision also.

The King William School Board reviewed a data-packed presentation on January 17, 2017, and notified parents on January 25, 2017, that the new scale would be implemented. That took eight days.  And even more recently, the West Point school board (another neighboring county) approved a 10-point grading scale as well.

The Hanover County School board meeting on January 17, 2017 was “standing room only,” because of this topic.  We met the exact same night as King William.  Why are we still in a holding pattern?  It isn’t even going to be on this month’s agenda, and in March it will be discussed during a “work” session, where parents and the community will be allowed to attend, but not voice their support.

A committee was formed in October of 2016, facts have been presented multiple times (not just at the January meeting); petitions have been signed; letters have been written to the school board and local papers; surrounding school districts are hopping on board, and Hanover County is still saying it needs to “explore” this issue.

Facts: 

*Hanover is the ONLY division out of the top 25 districts in the Commonwealth that still utilizes an outdated 7-point system. 

*In 2012, roughly 63% of Virginia students followed a 10-point scale.  In 2016, 90% were on a 10-point scale.

*According to the U.S. News and World Report, of the 130 schools with the highest college readiness index, only “8” of those high schools do not use a 10-point grading scale.  Four (4) of those eight (8) are Hanover county high schools. 

*In 2009, Fairfax county, the Commonwealth’s largest school system, switched to a 10-point scale and has never looked back.  If Virginia’s largest school system can do this and felt it was relevant, what is holding up Hanover County in 2017? 

Quotes and feedback from districts that have made the change:

2009
“We believe this new scale [10-point] benefits the students in the competitive world of academics, as well as maintaining Fairfax County Public School’s nationally recognized high academic standards,” said Dan Storck, Fairfax County Board Chair. 

2014

“Many school divisions in Virginia and across the country have made this switch in recent years,” said Tim Bullis, community relations director for Chesterfield County Public schools.  “The proposed 10-point scale is based on the College Board’s trading scale, and most colleges and many high schools now use a similar scale.  This is expected to make our students more competitive for college admissions and scholarships, and it also should serve as a motivator that will increase student attendance and enrollment in more rigorous course offerings.”

2015

“As superintendent, I received absolutely no complaints from any parents or teachers following implementation.  We experienced no subsequent grade inflation trend.  The transition had no negative impact on student test score performance.  If anything, our student test-score performance sustained its improvement during the transition period.  A 10-point scale already was in effect when I served as superintendent in Orange County, Virginia,” said Dr. Robert P. Grimesey, (past Superintendent of Allegheny and Orange County Schools, current Superintendent of Moore County Schools and recipient of the 2013 Directors Award from the Virginia Association of School Superintendents). 

Finally, the numbers simply speak for themselves.  Below is an example of a report card/transcript, comparing Hanover County to Chesterfield County, who adopted the 10-point scale nearly three years ago.  As you can clearly see, the same performance in Chesterfield and in other counties who have a 10-point grading scale, nets a much higher GPA for the exact same grades.  A Chesterfield county student would reveal a 4.2 GPA, compared with a 3.4 GPA for a Hanover County student, for the exact same number and letter grades.

0789707
This is not a level playing field, and is not fair for our students who work so hard.  With the same grades across two districts, one student clearly has an advantage.  This means fewer college acceptance letters, less scholarship money awarded, and fewer NCAA eligible athletes for Hanover County in comparison to a district just across the river.

Some argue that colleges “know” Hanover County Schools.  Why risk that we may be “known” when we can remove all doubt by putting our students on par with the other top performers in the state?  Simply put, moving Hanover County Public schools to a 10-point grading scale keeps our students competitive in the post-secondary world.  This is a low-cost, high-impact change that our students deserve.

Hanover County is known for its academic success and reputation.  Let’s ensure we set our students up for success beyond high school, and give them equal footing amongst their peers.

We all appreciate the effort and time you devote to Hanover County Schools advocating for our students.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention and swift action on this matter.

Best Regards,

Karen S. Rountree

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