CPS May Enact Districtwide Grading Scale as Whitney Young Battle Continues

By Chloe Riley on December 18, 2013 10:21am 

 Chicago Public Schools may move toward a uniform grading scale next year. Whitney Young Magnet High School is one school that would be affected.
Chicago Public Schools may move toward a uniform grading scale next year. Whitney Young Magnet High School is one school that would be affected.
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DNAinfo/Chloe Riley

NEAR WEST SIDE — As a group of Whitney Young parents continues its fight to make the school’s grading scale easier, Chicago Public Schools has begun pushing for a uniform grading scale across the district.

Whitney Young Magnet is the only selective-enrollment high school in the district where students must score a 93 to get an “A.” At other college preps — including Jones, Walter Payton and Northside — students only need score a 90 to get that same “A.”

For parent Hongbo Wang, who has a freshman at Whitney Young, the grading scale is a hindrance to her son’s overall grade point average.

“Whitney Young needs to re-evaluate the situation. When it comes to college applications and scholarships, it really puts all the students at a disadvantage,” Wang said. 

Wang and several other Whitney Young parents attended the Oct. 23 Chicago Board of Education meeting to voice their opposition to the school’s grading policy.

In response, two days later, the parents received an email from Annette Gurley, chief officer of teaching and learning at CPS, who informed the group that CPS is working on a districtwide grading policy change.

“Our Policies and Procedures Office is initiating work in developing a uniformed grading scale,” Gurley wrote. “The grading scale would provide for a common grading system across the district, and become effective for the 2014-15 school year.”

According to CPS Spokesperson Joel Hood, "CPS is currently reviewing the existing grading scale policy and will be incorporating feedback from education stakeholders, as we continue to work to ensure that all of our students are ready for college, career and life."

Complaints about the grading scale at Whitney Young are not new. Parents and students raised these same concerns in 2010, when a uniform grading scale for the school was being put in place.

Even 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnett’s son has a problem with Whitney Young’s grading scale.

Burnett’s son — whose name is also Walter Burnett — is a senior at the high school. He, like many other students and parents at the school, sees Young’s 93 “A” as a hindrance when it comes to college applications. 

“It’s a struggle. If the college reps don’t know our grading scale is harder, that kind of skews our GPA in a sense. Everyone complains about it,” the younger Burnett said at a Thanksgiving food drive.

The school’s Local School Council meets at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in Whitney Young’s library, and while Principal Joyce Kenner has said she would not support changing the grading system in the past, it's unclear whether CPS' districtwide policy will force the school to change.

“Our teachers felt we are lowering our standards if we lower our grading scale, to put it bluntly. If it’s not broke, let’s not try to fix anything,” Kenner has said.

Local School Council member and parent Muriel Jenkins said she thinks changing the scale is important and necessary, but even though many people have been vocal about the issue before the LSC, not as many people have shown up to meetings called specifically to discuss a change.

Still, she noted Kenner has the final say.

“Dr. Kenner has straight-up said, 'I’m not changing it unless the board tells me to change it,'” Jenkins said Tuesday. “I don’t get why they don’t get that. It really doesn’t matter what we think. Bottom line is, it’s her decision.”

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