No student grading system is inherently better than another. The main objective should be to make sure the grading scales are uniform – not only statewide but also nationwide.
That is the thinking behind the transition from a seven-point grading scale to a 10-point grading scale for South Carolina’s high school students. School boards in York County also have decided to apply the 10-point scale to all other grade levels as well.
The change was unanimously approved by the S.C. Board of Education in April. State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said at the time that the change would allow South Carolina students to compete on a level playing field for college entry and scholarships.
The new system also will benefit military families and other students transferring into South Carolina schools from other states. Most states use a 10-point scale, including neighboring Georgia and North Carolina, which made the switch last year. South Carolina colleges also use a 10-point scale.
Under the seven-point system, a score of 93-100 was an A; 85-92 was a B; 77-84 was a C; 70-76 was a D; and 69 and below was an F.
Under the new system, 90-100 will be an A; 80-90 is a B; 70-80 is a C; and 60-69 is a D. But, as local educators note, the change will entail more than just assigning new numbers to grades.
For example, a score of 90 used to be a B, and now it will be an A. That means teachers and administrators will have to adjust how they award number grades to ensure that the grades reflect the same level of achievement they used to.
In other words, students shouldn’t expect to make higher letter grades just because the numbers have changed.
That transition is likely to pose some difficulties for teachers and students alike. But once it is fully implemented, the effect should be minimal.
It might, however, have an impact on how many students become eligible for the state’s HOPE, LIFE and Palmetto Fellows scholarships. For example, more students are likely to meet the 3.0 GPA threshold for the $2,500 HOPE scholarship.
That could cost the state millions of dollars more by 2020, when next year’s freshman class graduates – the first to use the 10-point scale for four years.
State lawmakers could change the scholarship standards to reflect the new grading scale. Or they could simply give more students a better chance to go to college.
Either way, we think the switch to the 10-point scale is a sensible move. Again, the primary goal is uniformity.
A uniform grading system ensures that South Carolina students will be able to compete fairly with students from other states when they apply for scholarships and admission to college. We are confident local school officials will be able to iron out whatever problems arise.