The Uproar

Tipping the Scales

If the new grading scale policy passes, the A range will be significantly narrowed

In+an+era+of+serious+concern+about+student+stress%2C+an+alteration+to+the+grading+scale+could+prove+to+deter+students+from+taking+courses+that+are+beyond+their+abilities.
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Tipping the Scales

In an era of serious concern about student stress, an alteration to the grading scale could prove to deter students from taking courses that are beyond their abilities.

In an era of serious concern about student stress, an alteration to the grading scale could prove to deter students from taking courses that are beyond their abilities.

photo by Samantha Solenday

In an era of serious concern about student stress, an alteration to the grading scale could prove to deter students from taking courses that are beyond their abilities.

photo by Samantha Solenday

photo by Samantha Solenday

In an era of serious concern about student stress, an alteration to the grading scale could prove to deter students from taking courses that are beyond their abilities.

Rin Swann, Reporter

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DISCLAIMER:  The dateline of this article might have been a dead giveaway… but in case you were expecting an actual news article, you are hereby on notice that the following is an April Fools’ prank.  There is absolutely nothing factual in this article.  The piece ran as a prank without this disclaimer from 8:30am until 10:00pm on April 1.  

******

The end of the third nine-weeks came with an influx of last-minute assignments and frantic pleas to teachers, as students desperately tried to reach an 89.5 in order to round up to an A for the grading period. But all of that may change soon.

Along with other measures to address concerns about student stress, North Allegheny is considering changing its grading scale so that a 95% and above will be considered the new standard for an A. If the measure wins approval, the entire grading scale will shift with it, so every grade will rise by 5 percent. The B range will span from 85% to 94% and so forth, rendering all scores 65% and below an E.

“At this time, we are simply considering all of our available options,” Assistant Director of Academic Performance Dana Owens said.  “The benefits of a narrowing of the grading scale in the A range are obvious, but we’re taking a close look at the costs before moving forward.”

Yet for many students and parents, an alteration to the grading scale seems far more extreme than any of the other district initiatives to address student stress.

It won’t stop me from taking APs.  It will just make me even more stressed to get an A.”

— Joe Bukharin, junior

“It’s hard to imagine a North Allegheny transcript without as many A’s,” junior Michael Balzary said.  “How could anyone think that this is a good thing?”

Nevertheless, according to multiple studies, changing an A to 95% and above may be even more helpful in achieving stress reduction.

“It’s never easy to introduce change,” Owens further explained, “but the job of a school district is to evaluate the benefits and costs of current practices and implement change when the research supports it.”

A recent study by the National Student Stress Association (NSSA) in conjunction with Intellectual Implementation in Schools (IIS) has shown that the current grading scale, widely used across the American educational system, encourages students to work beyond their limits and take classes they are not passionate about — only to improve their GPAs. According to the study, a shocking 87.7 percent of American students who take multiple AP classes receive an A between an 89.5 and a 91.

The study further explains that the “rounding up” of these grades encourages students to take more difficult classes and put in less work because they know that an 89.5 is ultimately no different from a 99.5 on their final transcripts.  Both scores simply read “A”.

Several other schools in PA have already made this change, including Glenbrook North High School and North Shore High School in the eastern half of the state — and both schools saw positive changes in student stress as kids willingly reduced the number of difficult classes on their schedules.

“The district recognizes that student stress is an issue we must address,” said NASH Principal Dr. Kreider. “While no final decisions have been made at this time, we do know that a change in the grading scale will likely maximize student potential and minimize stress levels.”

However, many students disagree with Kreider’s assessment.

“My stress levels will only go up if this policy is implemented,” said junior Joe Bukharin, who currently takes four AP classes and has scheduled six for next year. “It won’t stop me from taking APs.  It will just make me even more stressed to get an A.”

NASH AP teachers as well seem to have mixed feelings. “The majority of my students are constantly on the border with their grades,” said AP English teacher Mrs. Morris. “I don’t know if this would help their stress or just encourage them to drop the class.”

At Glenbrook North, however, AP Calc teacher Gordon Sumner has nothing but praise for his school board’s decision to implement the narrower A grade range.

“My enrollment dropped from 147 to 38 this year, the year the change took effect,” he said.  “The only kids who take my course are the ones who are meant to take it.  Plus, I no longer have to grade tests on weekends.”

Will NA follow the same path, or will student sentiment prevail?  Time will soon tell, as the district is planning to present its findings to the school board early this summer.

About the Writer
Rin Swann, Reporter

Rin Swann is a senior at NASH and, in her spare time, she enjoys drinking Peach Snapple, musical theater, and plotting for her inevitable take-over of...

9 Comments

9 Responses to “Tipping the Scales”

  1. Tiger Woods on April 1st, 2019 11:15 am

    This will just make students less competitive when applying to colleges. If anything they should go to the college grading scale with A+, A, A-, and so forth. Imagine getting a 94 and getting a B, this obviously wasn’t fully thought through. Why change a winning formula? Sad!

  2. Maya on April 1st, 2019 11:47 am

    I really don’t understand how this is going to help at all with stress, if anything it is just going to make me more stressed. Personally, I take higher courses because the curriculum is overall better compared to academic. I’m fine with getting a B in a class because of the difficulty but if I’m now struggling to not get a C, that’s just ridiculous and unfair.

  3. Connor Foran on April 1st, 2019 12:58 pm

    This is absolutely outrageous! Why would someone have the name “Gordon” in this day and age? This is absurd and I hope something gets done to stop it.

  4. Olivia on April 1st, 2019 2:17 pm

    As an alum of NA who took AP and honors classes that I *was* interested in and worked very hard in, I think that I could count I the times I got A in a class of 95 or above on one hand. Changing the grading scale this drastically seems more like a way to increase stress rather than reduce it.

  5. Alon on April 1st, 2019 2:59 pm

    April Fools?

  6. Mrs Morris on April 1st, 2019 4:25 pm

    All of my students are highly exceptional, so my AP English class will go on as is. I’m even thinking of adding War and Peace to my reading list next year…. maybe even the entire works of Charles Dickens. Oh, the possibilities!

  7. spencer g on April 1st, 2019 4:31 pm

    this is unreal. first of all, it’s outrageous that anyone in the administration would even for a second claim that this is logical. easy for them to say when it doesn’t effect their futures at all. our transcripts only show our final letter grades for classes. not the percentages. if this was actually implemented, pretty much every single student in the district would see a DRASTIC reduction in many of their final grades. some students might even have all of their grades shift down. this is absolutely unfathomable. this means that most students’ gpas will be significantly lowered, making our chances of getting into colleges harder. i really cannot comprehend how anyone in the administration would actually have the nerve to claim this would eliminate stress. in fact, reading the title of this article made my heart start racing. we already work so. hard. na is extremely difficult as it is. altering the grading scale so it’s virtually impossible to get an a will have a horrendous effect on students’ stress levels. a huge number of students already find it immensely difficult to get a 90 in a class, let alone a 95. i have never even heard of a school with such an absurd grading scale. this would be a direct cut on many students’ motivation, because a lot of us are simply unable to receive a 95 in a class, even if we put everything into it. so again, i am incredibly shocked that the administration would EVER even consider this. oh and one more thing. maybe if you’re going to implement a policy that would directly effect all students’ grades, futures, and self-esteem, then ask them how they feel about it. because i’m sure i’m not the only one with this opinion.

  8. Haley Bemis on April 1st, 2019 5:21 pm

    I vote for shutting it down. It’s going to encourage students to drop classes and only increase stress. If implemented, I know many students that would now be failing. I don’t see any benefit to it. As someone who works extremely hard and puts in hours of time and effort to get the grades I do, I know for a fact I will be even more stressed out.

    Anyone have a petition up to start this? Can someone make one?

  9. Kelly on April 5th, 2019 10:22 pm

    Seriously, the teacher is happy enrollment dropped in his class so he didn’t have to grade papers on the weekend. What a tool! Everyone should drop his class so he is out of a job. I would hope that NA has a higher caliber of teachers than that! This idea will not reduce stress in students, if anything, this will raise the stress level. If students choose AP class then they are fully aware of the stress that comes with these courses and changing the grading scale will do nothing for eeducing stress. Totally against this!

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Tipping the Scales