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Opening Arguments

Making the grade

There's an interesting dispute going on in the Danville school system, where parents are complaining about the grading scale being too tough. They say they aren't trying to dumb down the schools, but their children are at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to getting into college and that the school system should use the same grading scale as most of the schools around them:

Danville's grading scale requires that students earn a 95 percent or above to get an A grade, a minimum of 88 percent for a B, a minimum of 77 percent for a C and a minimum of 70 percent for a D.

Avon, Brownsburg and Plainfield schools all use the more standard college scale of 90 percent or above for an A, a minimum of 80 percent for a B, a minimum of 70 percent for a C and a minimum of 60 percent for a D. That is the scale LaCour prefers because it is more commonly used.

That sounds at first blush like a fair complaint. Some people I know once worked at a company in Fort Wayne in which one department had much stricter performance reviews than other departments. What got you an "exceeds expectations" in other departments got you just a "meets expectations" in the tougher department, and the manager even bragged about having higher standards than everyone else. He wasn't especially moved when his employees complained that his "greater expectations" were unfair because it made them seem to company higherups to compare less favorably with other employees than they really should.

But on the school system's side of the issue is the fact that its tougher grading scale has been around as long as anyone can remember, and an IU School of Education dean points out that most colleges and universities do their homework and "know the better districts and their grading scales and take that into account." That's a pretty good argument for keeping the high standards at Danville, even urging other schools to adopt them as well.

Then there is this, which is really interesting:

Despite parents' concerns, some numbers don't indicate inequities.

Of grades assigned during the 2008-09 school year, a higher percentage of Danville High school students received A's -- 42 percent -- than in Avon, Cascade, Mooresville, Plainfield and Tri-West high schools, according to research gathered by Mill Creek Schools.

You could argue that the tougher standards are working as students are living up to higher expectations. Or you could say that it doesn't matter what the standards are if the material is so easy that anyone can master it. Without knowing more about how and what they teach in Danville, it's impossible to know which is going on there.

Posted in: Hoosier lore