Nashua Board of Education split on new grading scale

NASHUA – The 11-point grading scale recently implemented in parts of the Nashua School District came under fire Monday as school board members called first for a repeal, then for additional scrutiny of the grading system.

"A grading system should not penalize students; it should accurately reflect their work," said Doris Hohensee.

Attending her first school board meeting Monday, Hohensee said she wanted to see the 100-point grading scale restored since she said the 11-point scale limits the precision for reporting student grades.

Student member to the board Alexandra Norris from Nashua High School North said the 11-point scale more accurately reflects student proficiency with their studies.

"With the 100-point scale, we’re more concerned with minute gradation," she said. For instance, she said the difference between an 83 and 82 is not significant, but can change the GPA calculation for a student. "I consider accuracy as more ‘does my grade represent my learning?’?"

Replacing the traditional 100-point system, the 11-point scale debuted in the high schools and elementary schools as part of the districtwide adoption of competency-based education, which measures student proficiency across a set of skills in each course.

While it complements the new system, the 11-point scale is not required for competency-based education. The scale can also be converted to traditional letter grades.

Norris said students are accepting the change.

"We think that it is a step in the right direction from the 100-point scale," she said.

Student representative from Nashua High School South Mary Zhu said she is still working with students at Nashua South to get a consensus on grading scale.

School board member Dorothy Oden said she has heard more complaints about the grading scale than any other issue while she has been serving on the board.

"I think we ought to survey all the students, and all the teachers, and see what their feelings are," she said. "I don’t want to turn things around if the majority of teachers and students are comfortable with this."

Superintendent Mark Conrad also urged for more consideration before reverting to the 100-point scale.

"Let’s take the time to get the right information, and get the right diagnosis to the right problem," he said.

New board member Howard Coffman spoke against the new scale, and said he doesn’t like students being "Guinea pigs."

"I feel sorry for the kids that are trying to get to college," he said.

Member Robert Hallowell said if new policy was never "tested" on students, then nothing in the district would ever change.

"There’s a lot that went into making this decision," Hallowell said.

The board ultimately decided on sending the item to its curriculum and evaluation committee to be discussed in February.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-6402, tforbes@nashuatelegraph. com or @Telegraph_TinaF.