The move to a 10-point grading scale for South Carolina high schools will eliminate confusion and put Palmetto state grads on equal footing with those from elsewhere, educators and others say.
“It will level the playing field for kids who are competing for scholarships and athletics,” said Mark Hopkins, an assistant superintendent for Clover schools. “I think it’s going to have a positive impact.”
The S.C. Board of Education recently changed the state’s uniform grading scale for high school courses from a seven-point scale to a 10-point scale effective Aug. 1.
Karen Fritz, a York parent who moved to South Carolina from Nevada several years ago, was quick to applaud the move. The South Carolina grading scale “has been a concern since I moved here from the West Coast,” she said.
Fritz said her son, a rising high school freshman at York Preparatory Academy in Rock Hill, was a straight-A student in Nevada schools. But he became a B student under the tougher grading scale in South Carolina.
“It was hard on him, mentally and emotionally, because you think that you’re a good student,” Fritz said. “He felt discouraged by lower grades than he made in Las Vegas.”
Under South Carolina’s current grading scale, 93-100 is an A; 85-92 is a B; 77-84 is a C; 70-76 is a D; and 69 and below is an F. A 10-point scale would mean a 90 to 100 is an A; 80-89 is a B; 70-79 is a C; and 60-69 is a D.
Rock Hill schools Superintendent Kelly Pew said South Carolina is among a few states that don’t use the 10-point scale.
Colleges and universities are on a 10-point scale, as are neighboring Georgia and North Carolina, which made the switch last year.
“It’s a positive move for our state to make sure that an A for our students is no different than an A for a student from Washington state or Georgia or wherever,” she said.
Middle and elementary schools that assign letter grades aren’t required to make the change, which only affects high school credit-bearing classes.
The grading scale at lower levels is up to individual school districts. However, the state board said middle schools are encouraged to make the change because many eighth-graders take high school credit courses.
Pew and Vernon Prosser, superintendent in York schools, said they expect leaders in their districts and others to talk about whether the scale for younger students should be adjusted to reflect the change.
Pew said Rock Hill schools begin assigning grades in third grade.
“There probably will be conversations with elementary and middle school principals to say, do we want to do something different at those levels,” she said.
Prosser said York schools begin assigning grades in fifth grade at York Intermediate School; elementary schools use standards-based grading. “We haven’t had an opportunity to meet and talk about it,” he said.
Leaders said the seven-point scale could have put some students at a disadvantage. That’s because a South Carolina high school student who earns a 90 would receive a 3.0 toward their grade-point average, because an A is 93 to 100. A Georgia student who earned the same grade gets a 4.0.
South Pointe High Principal Al Leonard said the apparent unfairness to South Carolina students hasn’t been discussed a lot, but it probably existed.
“The disparing has been there for quite a while, but the light is just beginning to be shed on it,” he said. “When you lay it out this way, it’s clear cut.”
Hopkins said the change will simplify the process for students transferring into South Carolina schools from other states. In the past, he said, grades for students who moved in from states that used a 10-point scale had to be adjusted to the South Carolina scale.
“We had to make a lot of changes to grades in GPA to maintain equitable competition between local kids and those that are moving in,” he said.
State leaders said the change also could mean roughly 13,000 additional students will earn lottery-backed state scholarships annually by 2023.
Prosser said that puts pressure on high schools to make sure that more students are ready for college-level work, either at four-year or two-year schools.
“It’s going to help a lot of kids. I feel good about getting more kids to college,” Prosser said. “The pressure is on us to make sure they are ready.”
Jennifer Becknell: 803-329-4077