The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Pritzker School Lowers Grade Scale After Push by Parents

By Alisa Hauser | October 28, 2014 9:44am
 Joenile Albert-Reese, principal of Pritzker School, said she reluctantly agreed to lower an "A" from 93 percent to 90 percent.
Joenile Albert-Reese, principal of Pritzker School, said she reluctantly agreed to lower an "A" from 93 percent to 90 percent.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

WICKER PARK — Impassioned parents have persuaded a Wicker Park elementary school to change to a 10-point grading scale where an "A" starts at 90, rather than 93.

Parents of students at Pritzker School say that the new grading scale will put their children on a level  playing field when they compete for coveted spots at the city's most elite middle schools.

"It seemed like everyone around us was on a 90 to 100 scale," said Danette Fulton, a parent of a fifth-grade Pritzker student. Using the former scale "put our children at a significant disadvantage," she said.

Fulton led the charge among a group of 10 parents who wanted the scale changed "so that our students had a fair shot," she said.

Alisa Hauser says it may seem like a small matter, but elementary school grades could make a big difference:

Next year, Fulton's daughter plans to take an admission test for one of the city's selective-enrollment schools for seventh- and eighth-graders. A student's marks from the fifth grade are among three factors considered in the highly competitive process.

The change at Pritzker began Friday, but Pritzker's Principal Joenile Albert-Reese said she had been considering changing the scale for the last three years. Fulton's evidence presented at a Local School Council meeting earlier this month indicating that most CPS elementary schools are on a 10-point scale was "the tipping point," Albert-Reese said.

Albert-Reese still favors the tougher grading scale because she believes it "produces more rigor, more initiative on the student's behalf to work harder." But, she said, "when I looked at the number of schools on the 10-point scale, I couldn't in good conscience hold our students to the 93-point A when all the other students are getting an A at 90."

Following similar pressure from parents and students at other schools, Whitney Young's academic center, which serves seventh- and eighth-graders, as well as Whitney Young Magnet High School, this year switched to a 10-point grading scale, confirmed Whitney Young Principal Joyce Kenner.

Each year, Albert-Reese said 18 to 24 of Pritzker's sixth-graders get offered admission to academic programs at selective-enrollment middle schools.  About half of those students end up leaving Pritzker instead of staying through the eighth grade, Albert-Reese said.

"The selective-enrollment schools skim the cream of my crop. Potentially they could take more students [when A is lowered to 90], but I wanted to give our students an equal opportunity at the selective-enrollment slots," Reese said.

For children like Fulton's fifth-grade daughter, who had "a couple 91 or 92s " those scores would be considered Bs and not As on Pritzker's old grading scale. 

The disadvantage comes into play when straight As are needed to get into selective-enrollment middle schools inside top city high schools such as Whitney Young, Lane Tech and Kenwood Academy.

While picking up her children Monday, Lauren Petlin, the mother of a Pritzker kindergartner and a fourth-grader, said she was "thrilled" about the new grading scale.

"What used to be a B can now be an A, as it is at other schools. You are on an equal playing field," Petlin said.

Located at 2009 W. Schiller St., Pritzker serves 724 students, 220 of whom are enrolled in the school's regional gifted academy, said Assistant Principal Barbara Smith.

LSC Chairman Don Roseen said that the council "did not come to any consensus" on whether to adopt the 10-point scale because the decision to change the grading scale was solely made by Albert-Reese.

Roseen said he believes that "CPS should standardize the grading scales for all schools, since grades matter for selective-enrollment high schools."

Last year, CPS officials said they were considering changing the grading scale districtwide for the current school year.

Reaction among teachers about the grading scale change is "mixed," according to a veteran Pritzker teacher who requested anonymity.

"Most parents would want the 10-point system to see the immediate advantage, not knowing that the long-term disadvantage might lessen the effort by a student," the teacher said. "Clearly, if a student gets between 90 and 93 they would stop trying to achieve an A, because they are happy with an A, they're already there.

"On a 7-point system, you would see a lot more effort from the student to get the higher grade," the teacher said.

Here's the grading-scale proposal shared by Fulton at Pritzker School's Oct. 15 LSC meeting:

For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: