Shift in OPS grading scale qualifies for more effort from students

Nadia Spurlock and In-Depth Editor

The start of the school year marked the beginning of the full implementation of the field-tested grading scale in Omaha Public Schools.

The point shifts made to the scale included raising the “A” grade from originally requiring students to achieve a 3.01- 4.0, to now requiring students to attain a 3.26- 4.0 to receive an “A” in a course.

Point shifts also raised the “F” grade from originally being 0.00- 0.75 points, to students failing the course if they receive anywhere between 0.00- 1.00 points in a course. The changes also eliminated the system of earning a ‘minus’ on “A” and “B” grades, now only offering solid letter grades.

The four-point grading scale was first introduced in 2010 and has been changed five times over the years in efforts to improve the scale. All of the changes have sparked confusion and many different perspectives from students, parents, teachers, and administrators.

Alan Dappen, Omaha North AP and Honors physics teacher, sat on the grading committee and influenced the decisions made in regards to the changes in the scale.

“With a .76 being the threshold, it didn’t take much effort to pass, in fact if I give you a 1 on a paper, that says you’re below standards, and that was considerably higher than passing. You could be being less than qualified on everything you do and still pass the class with no problem at all, which was really not right. So, we knew there were problems,” Dappen said.

The committee of 27 people included teachers, school administrators, TAC administrators, the superintendent, and the assistant superintendent. According to Dappen, the committee met for two full years. The grading committee presented the new grading scale to the school board in the spring of 2016 before piloting in the fall of 2016.

“After the first year we established what we wanted to do for the pilot, the second year we did the pilot, evaluated the pilot, and then it came to this – it was a long process,” Dappen said.

Classes that were piloted included 4th grade math, Social Studies 7 1 – 2, English/Language Arts 8 1 – 2, Modern World History 1 – 2, English 3 and 4 and Honors English 3 – 4, Algebra 1 and 2 and Honors Algebra 1 – 2 (Includes dual language), Physical Science 1 and 2 and Honors Physical Science 1 – 2 (Includes dual language) *Should I make this a graphic*

“It became pretty clear that it had done what we wanted it to do. It made it harder to get an ‘A,’ which students complained about, but the truth is, as we looked at the district wide numbers – we were giving out a lot of A’s,” Dappen said.

The committee also got regular feedback from OPS staff during the entire process. Dappen updated staff after most meetings and solicited their feedback. The committee also took feedback from focus groups of students and parents during the process.

“This was not a secretive process by any means. All seemed to be in agreement that this is a positive step forward for the district,” Dappen said.

Now that the grading scale is fully implemented, students are now voicing their opinions about the change. It has been an ongoing discussion in the school district since the beginning of the school year, as students are adjusting to the point shifts.

“It’s like they want us to

Richardson believes that some teachers require more out of their students in their coursework and grade so that students get the grades that they deserve. Richardson also believes that the F was a reasonable shift, but “making it harder to get an ‘A’ was not necessary.”

“The point shifts are a leap and they do require more, but I believe that we will all adjust to the changes and get used to the grading scale with time,” Sanjaya Bolton, junior, said.