School & District Management

South Carolina Switches to 10-Point Grading Policy

By Catherine Gewertz — April 13, 2016 1 min read
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In South Carolina, you get a B in math if you earn a 91. But in neighboring states, you’d be an A student.

That’s because South Carolina high schools have been on a “seven-point” grading scale: 93 to 100 is an A, 85 to 92 is a B, 77 to 84 is a C, and 69 to 76 is a D. By contrast, many other states use 10-point spans for each letter grade: 90 to 100 is an A, 80 to 90 is a B, and so forth.

South Carolina decided Tuesday to embrace the 10-point grading scale, to minimize the mismatches between its own grading system and the systems used in many nearby states, and by colleges and universities. The change, approved by a unanimous vote of the state board of education, will take effect in the 2016-17 school year. It will mean students’ grade-point averages will be calculated differently, putting thousands more students each year in the running for state scholarships, according to a Power Point presentation made to the state board.

North Carolina moved from a seven-point scale to a 10-point scale this year. Critics of that state’s move contended that colleges were savvy enough to understand students’ transcripts, whether they came from states with seven-point or 10-point grading systems. They argued that the move amounted to grade inflation, since it boosts many students’ grades by a letter.

“Let’s not mistake a higher graduation rate with better-educated graduates,” wrote Bob Luebke of North Carolina’s Civitas Institute.

South Carolina education commissioner Molly Spearman welcomed the change, saying it would help ensure consistency for students moving to the state, and for Palmetto State students applying to college. Dr. Luke Clamp, the principal of River Bluff High School in Lexington School District One, detailed some of the benefits.

“We can align our public education’s grading system with that of our colleges and universities,” he said in a statement released by the state board of education. “This eliminates confusion for students in dual-credit courses, removes the need for our higher education system to convert grade point averages, and makes the entire system seamless and easier to understand for students and parents.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.