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As Protests Wane, Prestigious School Swaps Grade System

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A new grade-weighting system for suburban Chicago's prestigious New Trier High School, which initially drew opposition from parents and teachers, will take effect this fall.

The high school, which has a reputation as one of the highest-achieving in the nation, groups students according to academic ability and assigns greater weight to grades for courses in the higher levels.

The new system, unveiled in the spring, will reduce that difference. Officials in the 3,100-student New Trier Township High School District said the change will more fairly represent the achievement of students at all levels.

But at a contentious public hearing in May, parents and teachers at the school said they feared that the proposed grade system would not reward students as much for taking difficult courses.

Superintendent Henry S. Bangser said, however, that the new system still rewards students for achievement in higher-level courses.

Pluses and Minuses

For example, under the old system, an A at the college preparatory level--the school's lowest level--was assigned a number of 4.0 for determining grade-point average. An A for a course in the school's highest level, advanced placement, was worth 7.2.

Under the new system, an A at the college-prep level remains a 4.0, but an advanced-placement A is worth 5.67.

After meeting with parents and teachers to explain the system, the school board approved the changes at its June meeting. In a recent interview, Mr. Bangser noted that students remain free to choose courses in any grade level.

While the weighting of grades was the major source of contention for many parents, one element of the new system--the addition of pluses and minuses to letter grades--went over well.

After some discussion, however, the board decided not to adopt the grade of A+, Mr. Bangser said. "We decided not to use an A-plus because some board members felt it might create too much competition."

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