The New Grading Scale Gone Unspoken


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A+ grade written on a test paper.

Casey Hartley

A little less than two months of school have passed, and possibly the biggest change for students’ grades has gone unnoticed. 

When the Da Vinci Schools Board met on June 19, 2019, a change in all three Da Vinci Schools was deemed necessary.  With three separate grading scales in place for nearly seven years, a percentage change has been made. This marks the first time in DVC’s history that a major grade scale change has taken place.

At first, it may seem that this grading scale news comes unprecedented and sudden, but according to DVC Principal Erin D’Souza, the change had a simple reason behind it.

“The grade scale at Science, Design, and Communications each, all of them were on the different grading scale,” she said.  She then said the school board decided that “we can’t have them on three different [scales], we need them on only one.”

Before considering the reasoning behind the change, one thing is clear:  The communication between teachers and students for this grading scale has been slim.  No formal announcements school-wide have been made, and few teachers have talked about it briefly to their classes.

“It’s just something there hasn’t been time for,” Eric Marintsch, the Computer Science Pathway teacher at DVC, said.  “I do think there should be something pushed out somewhere, like on the blog.”

Individual conversations about grades do still appeal to teachers.

Kristina Becht, a ninth-grade Math and Computer Science teacher at DVC, says that if her students were interested and wanted to know more about the change, she would indeed explain further.  Eric agreed when asked about one-on-one conversations.

If students do want to learn more on their own about the change, an easy way for them to do so is to access the grades and achievement policy here.

The biggest difference between the old and new scales is the percentage range from grade to grade.  For example, the old range for a B was 72.5 – 82% (A 9.5% range), but the new scale has it at 70 – 78% (8% range).  According to Principal Erin, the probability or range for each letter grade has balanced out. Looking at the new grading scale chart, all of the percentage ranges, save for a couple, are either 7 or 8 percent.

Erin pointed out specifically the range for a B-minus, which was 82.5 to 84%, just a 1.5% range on the old scale, signaling how unbalanced the grade percentage distribution was.  The B-minus range is now in 7% from 62 to 69%.

Other than that, however, it is unclear how else the scale change will affect overall student performance.  The extremes (A’s and I’s) are now smaller in percentage range, which could make it both harder to ace classes and harder to fail, but with the Mastery-Based Grading format still in place, not everything is new.

“You’re still going to get a grade from zero to four, like you’ve gotten before,” Erin continued.  “You have your Essential Skills and your Habits of Mind, which get averaged together.” 

Ultimately, as Noel Ingram, tenth grade English and Graphic Communications teacher believes, the communication of grades is a mutual understanding between student and teacher.

“I think as teachers, our ultimate goal is for you guys to understand your grade and understand how what you’re doing influences it,” she said.