COLUMBIA, SC (WBTW) – The state Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to move South Carolina schools to a 10-point grading scale starting in August. SC schools now use a 7-point scale, while North Carolina, Georgia, and a majority of other states use the 10-point scale.
“For me, it was to be fair to our students in South Carolina,” state education superintendent Molly Spearman said after the board meeting. “We’ve heard from hundreds of parents and students and teachers saying that we needed to level the playing field.”
With the 7-point scale, a 92 is a “B” in South Carolina, while it’s an “A” for students in North Carolina and Georgia. That means a South Carolina student gets a 3 for his GPA, while the same 92 gets a student in North Carolina a 4 for his GPA, which puts South Carolina students at a disadvantage when it comes to getting scholarships or getting accepted into colleges.
Most colleges also use the 10-point scale, so supporters say this will make the transition easier from high school to college. And since most other states also use it, it will make things easier for children who move from state-to-state.
Critics say since the 10-point scale makes it easier to get higher grades, using it is “dumbing down” our system. But Spearman says, “It’s not lowering standards. Folks have to understand our standards are still the same, college and career-ready standards. That’s what teachers teach, whether it’s on a 7-point scale or a 10-point scale. Teachers, then, are the ones that adjust in their classrooms to set their tests, their assessments, and their grading scale and they still have the freedom to do that.”
The new grading scale will make it easier for students to qualify for lottery scholarships, especially the HOPE scholarship, which is based strictly on GPA. The Department of Education says if a 10-point scale had been in place over the last three years, anywhere from 12,000 to 13,000 more students would have qualified for lottery scholarships.
That means state lawmakers will have to adjust the qualifications for scholarships or provide more money for them. The department says the cost of providing the additional scholarships would be almost $15 million the first year.
The change will not be retroactive. The group at the Department of Education that studied the change said a retroactive change would be difficult to implement and would affect students’ class rankings, so the new scale will go into use this August and apply going forward.