NEAR WEST SIDE — They had high enough test scores and grades to get into one of the state's top high schools, but some students say it's too hard to get an A at Whitney Young Magnet on the near West Side.
Young is the only selective-enrollment school in the city that requires students to score 93 percent to get an A. At other college prep schools — like Jones, Walter Payton and Northside — students who score 90 or above merit an A.
At Young’s Local School Council meeting last week, several parents said the school’s grading system needed an overhaul and the stricter standards hurt their students when applying to college.
“It comes down to Whitney Young against all the other schools and how it compares to all the other schools. It’s definitely a disadvantage,” parent Michael Zhou said.
“A B is a B in people’s eyes,” said parent Hongbo Wang, who has a freshman student at Whitney Young.
Complaints about the grading scale are not new at the school. Parents and students raised these same concerns in 2010, when a uniform grading scale for the school was being put in place.
At the Sept. 18 LSC meeting, Principal Joyce Kenner told parents she felt it was an issue that had been settled.
“To rehash this every single year, I’ve gotta be honest here, it’s a waste of my time,” Kenner said. “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 said she would have Assistant Principal Mark Grishaber look into graduation data to see whether or not students had trouble getting into their top school due to grades.
One teacher, who asked not to be named, said Kenner was the main proponent of keeping the scale as is.
Student Chris Pieper, 17, who sits on both the student council and Young’s student concerns committee, said he’s talked with students at all grade levels, many of whom think Whitney Young should convert to the 90 percent A.
“There’s nothing that hurts more than getting a 91 percent and having that be called a B. And I think that’s what a lot of students are saying,” Pieper said.
The issue, according to Julia Spearman, Young’s LSC president, clearly still strikes a chord within the school. She said she was forming a committee to readdress the grading scale.
"It’s kind of like, are we hurting ourselves? I don't know. They're gonna have to want to change because it’s affecting their students," Spearman said.