NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The new school year is bringing a new grading scale along with it because Tennessee lawmakers said the previous grading scale presented challenges for families.
“It was brought to my attention by some constituents that Tennesseans were at an academic disadvantage relative to students from other states,” said State Representative Charlie Baum (R-Murfreesboro). “That’s because students in other states are on a 10 point grading scale and students from Tennessee had been on a seven point grading scale.”
Tennessee’s previous grading scale meant getting a 92 in Kentucky was an ‘A’ while getting a 92 in the Volunteer State was a ‘B.’ The letter grades then negatively impacted students’ grade point averages. Every state that borders Tennessee is on a 10 point scale.
“The idea for this bill was brought to me by military families in Clarksville that have children who have transferred to Tennessee schools from another state with a 10-point grading scale, automatically causing those military students’ GPAs to go down,” stated State Senator Bill Powers (R-Clarksville). “In some instances this has resulted in lost scholarships.”
Powers sponsored SB 0388 and Baum sponsored HB 0324 which required that the state board’s uniform grading system for students enrolled in grades nine through 12 use a 10 point grading scale.
“This change to the grading scale brings Tennessee in line with the eight other states that surround us, which is certainly beneficial for military families,” said Powers. “It also ensures Tennessee students are not losing scholarships to students from another state with a more lenient grading system.”
The new grading scale goes into effect for the 2022-2023 school year. It now means the “A” letter grade corresponds to scoring a percentage of points within the range of 90 to 100, for a “B” it’s 80-to-89, it’s 70 to 79 for a “C,” 60 to 69 for a “D,” and zero to 59 for an “F”.
“We don’t want our constituents and their students who are in high school to face an academic disadvantage when applying to colleges or a financial disadvantage when applying for scholarship money,” said Baum. “I’ve even got some anecdotal evidence from other representatives representing their constituents in Nashville that said that they knew of a family or two that moved back with their high school student to their original state because their high school student didn’t want to lose their 4.0 grade point average.”
The new grading scale is not retroactive so it doesn’t impact previous grades.
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“Retroactivity was discussed in the General Assembly, we felt like we did not have judicial standing in order to make the law retroactive to affect GPAs for individuals who had already graduated from high school,” said Baum. “But the law does affect the GPAs that are going to be calculated for any high school student who’s currently in high school. If they have an active transcript in high school, and a GPA for that transcript is being calculated, then the law should affect them.”
WCS Superintendent Jason Golden explained why the policy wasn’t retroactive as the question was raised by several school board members during Monday’s meeting.
“The state board of education on July 22nd, wisely I think, determined at the previous grading scale would continue for the previous years because it is a practical impossibility to go back and figure out everything,” said Golden. “Some students didn’t get credit because for the state and for us 69 and below was a failure but now it’s going to be 59 and below, it was a practical impossibility to go back and determine who should’ve gotten credit, who might’ve done credit recovery. Did they not get credit then have to take that same course a second time and get a different grade? Some students have moved out, some teachers have left, they’ve retired. Just the whole combination of all those needs make it a practical impossiblity to retroactively change all those grades.”
District leaders said their software also doesn’t support tracking two parallel grading scales simultaniously.
The State uses the grading scale to calculate qualifications for the Hope Scholarship, and Superintendent Golden said the change will help ensure WCS students get credit for courses that will qualify them for the State scholarship.
“What we’ve experienced over the years is a student would have a particular GPA with Williamson County Schools and they would apply for the Hope Scholarship the GPA might be slightly lower based on the state configuring their grades to ours,” Golden said. “Those difficulties will, for our current freshmen when they apply, be eliminated.”
Representative Baum said the fiscal note on the legislation is estimated to be about $3 million a year because of more students being awarded Hope scholarship dollars.
“There will be some Tennesseans who will experience an increase in their GPA. Some of these individuals will for the first time become eligible for hope, scholarship lottery dollars,” said Baum. “So the bill does have a small price tag, but we think this is a good thing because it means new Tennesseans are going to become eligible for Hope Scholarship lottery dollars.”
The Williamson County School Board voted unanimously Monday to have the 10-point grading scale apply to grades two through 12. Rutherford County Schools will have the 10 point grading scale for third through 12th grade, and it’s the same for Warren County Schools as well.
“I think ultimately, it maybe standardizes things throughout Tennessee, which helps us a little bit. But also it just gives kids more opportunities,” said Warren County Schools Director Dr. Grand Swallows. “I will, I guess go a little different direction. I think if we ever get to the point to where we can not focus on those grades, and focus on the education of the kid, then we’re all going to be a lot better shape. Because ultimately, we’re so worried about that number.”