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WAPS board debates grading scale system (07/17/2013)
By Jen Burris
What should be a passing grade for high school students? Should it be 70 percent? Sixty percent?

The recent Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Board meeting included discussion of the current grading scale at Winona Senior High School. The discussion was brought up during the approval of the Winona High School Handbook, when at least one board member expressed displeasure in the low standards of the grading scale.

Board member Ben Barratto, a former high school Spanish teacher here, was first to raise concerns with the current grading scale. Before, below 75 was failing, now below 60 is failing, he said. “When the public looks at this and [it] says 60 percent and a student can get through a class, I think it doesn’t speak well for what we’re trying to do,” Barratto explained. “If I was an employer and I look at this, I’m going to ask 'do I want to employ someone with a 60 percent rating?'”

Mark Anderson, middle school principal, said that a higher grading scale could potentially hurt students in their quest for higher education. When grading scales don’t match up with those of other schools, students can miss out on scholarships, he said. Anderson was on a committee that studied the grading scale, and he said parents had concerns about students' GPAs as they prepare for college.

Barratto said he wasn’t as concerned with the easy "A" grade under the new system, but rather the easy "D." The concern regarding students' GPAs for college, “speaks to the top part of the scale; I’m speaking to the bottom part of it,” he said. “Just because we have the same [grading scale] in all schools doesn’t make it right.”

“The way I look at it, you could get three out of four right and still fail,” Steve Schild interjected, adding that he supported the current minimum passing grade of 60 percent.

Board member Jeanne Nelson, a former teacher herself, said she could understood both sides of the debate; she reminded the board that, "you can make a test as hard or as easy as you want.” Nelson requested there be an explanation of the rationale behind the grading system.

The board ended the discussion with a request to review information gathered by a committee that had researched the grading scale issue within the last several years.  


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