Tale of two transcripts in Gwinnett and DeKalb: Are Gwinnett students losing out on HOPE?

A reader sent me this “Tale of two transcripts” note with supporting charts to make the point that some Gwinnett students are going to lose out on full HOPE because of how the district calculates grades. I could not replicate her charts here, so please click on the link to see them. (Somehow, the Google doc has two sets of the same charts.)

Take a look at the note and the comparative charts and let’s discuss.

I will openly admit to confusion on this issue no matter how often I ask about it. These charts are the best presentation I have seen to frame the question. And for me, the question is: Are some students at a disadvantage for HOPE because of how grades are configured in their systems?

I am always assured that the state strips away the local calculation and applies its own formula. This information suggests otherwise. Can someone clarify?

Here is the reader’s note to me:

Here are two identical transcripts, one from Gwinnett and one from DeKalb. The DeKalb student will qualify for the full Zell Miller Scholarship, the Gwinnett student will not.

In fact, the Gwinnett student will never qualify for the full Zell Miller/HOPE, even if he or she achieves a 4.0 in astrophysics at Georgia Tech, unless the new rules change.

The grading inequity is due to the fact that when the number grades are sent to the Georgia Student Finance Commission for conversion for HOPE/ Zell Miller Scholarship purposes, the grades are converted according to the grading scale in place in each individual county.

Some counties award a “C” worth 2 points for the number grades 71-79, but some counties, like Gwinnett, award a “D” worth 1 point for 71-73; the “C” is used for 74-79. The GSFC told me that a remedy would have to come from the county, there is nothing they can do about it. Ditto AP policy.

There was some public discussion about the unfairness of grade reporting to the Georgia Student Finance Commission in 2006/2007. As a result of this public discussion, the reporting mechanism was done differently; nothing changed. Gwinnett kids and students from certain other counties are still at a disadvantage. With the new 2011 HOPE/Zell Miller program, it will cost families even more.

One bad case of “senioritis” locks the Gwinnett student out of the Zell Miller Scholarship forever. Also look at the third set of grades. This student won’t qualify for the full Zell Miller because of the AP penalty currently in place.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

79 comments Add your comment

redweather

April 25th, 2011
6:40 am

The Google file doesn’t seem to be working.

teacher&mom

April 25th, 2011
6:44 am

I’m a big believer in local control but this is one area that should be standardized across the state. Our grading system is identical to the university system…with one exception…we don’t offer a “D”. Anything below a 70 is an F.

I teach high school and I’m still unclear how AP and Honor’s courses are calculated for HOPE. I’ve lobbied for a HOPE GPA to be added to our Powerschool program. Too many students look at the cumulative GPA and think they’ve earned HOPE…only to find out differently the summer after they graduate.

d

April 25th, 2011
6:52 am

I began my teaching career in Gwinnett but moved to DeKalb several years ago. I often wondered about the grade of D in DeKalb…. I also graduated from a Gwinnett County high school when several of these grades would have been a lower letter grade (grading scale was 0-69 = F; 70-73 = D; 74-82 = C; 83-91 = B; 92-100 = A). I have argued several times on this board that an A for a grade of 90 is too low. I wrote in to Dr. Barge (without any response) that the state BoE could set a standard state-wide grading scale with a higher cutoff for each of the letter grades. I feel that this should still be the case. Shortly after I graduated, but before my sister did, Gwinnett changed its grading scale to the one currently in use (and her GPA was boosted by a few points due to it)… How I wish mine could have been changed retroactively, but nevertheless, I felt a push to perform at a higher standard with the more difficult to achieve A and B.

Dunwoody Mom

April 25th, 2011
6:53 am

Documents don’t load. Are these official transcripts? Transcripts are confidential documents. How did the AJC get these?

MB

April 25th, 2011
6:55 am

Oh, it’s absolutely NOT fair – but not just from the Gwinnett perspective! Many honors/AP teachers grade to pretty much negate many of the honors points. This didn’t have too much impact when 3.0 was the standard but has already lead to students choosing schedules for next year which are less rigorous. Was this the legislature’s intent – to have students taking easier classes in high school to get HOPE?

You notice that the legislators crying about their students not being able to make the 1200 SAT weren’t concerned about the 3.7 GPA, right? That’s because teachers in many of those districts have been pressured to give grades to qualify students for HOPE. (Maybe not change grades, per se, but to give whatever extra credit opportunities were necessary to get the child to HOPE level. Same result.)

Look at the pass rate on AP exams for different schools and you’ll see the differences in grading. With the data bank now, it should be easy to see from which schools students are making Bs in the class and 4s and 5s on exams AND which schools have students not passing the APs and yet having As in the classes. Surely these schools extrapolate out to the same expectations for honors classes, so adjust accordingly on grading. (Since it’s all about the data, use it!)

GwinnettMom

April 25th, 2011
7:01 am

We had a “close call” with my daughter because of the AP points for hope. Her grades were very good except she was encouraged to take AP World History her sophomore year. She quickly discovered that this was not the class for her, and asked to switch to Honors. It was not allowed. She made a 72 or 73 both semesters which “looks” like a B with the 10 points added. However, when we saw the HOPE calculation, a 1.5 was recorded for each semester dropping her HOPE GPA to 3.0. She is attended Georgia Gwinnett College through dual enrollment (4.0 so far).

She made a 3.0 on the AP test if it matters.

ScienceTeacher671

April 25th, 2011
7:08 am

There should be a common standard throughout the state, and there should be “honors points” for AP classes.

catlady

April 25th, 2011
7:15 am

Don’t look for any changes. After all, it might result in more kids getting HOPE, and we sure don’t want that! ; P

Of course the way grades are figured for HOPE should be standardized; people have been saying that for about 18 years now! And, of course, if they wanted to, they could figure a better grade indicator of what makes a successful student (is it a 3.2 with a 1000 GPA and 3s or higher on AP?) but it has never been undertaken because HOPE is about votes, not education. I suspect at the next election we will see how much the change in requirements hurts those who voted for them.

a reader

April 25th, 2011
7:58 am

Here’s what I don’t get – how do you take away an A? Or did the person not really get an A, but was given points to the class grade? Because if you’re getting (actually EARNING) a 90+, it’s an A. But if you got an add on to your grade, you didn’t earn an A, you earned a B in a hard class (no shame there).

What my child’s school does is record the actual grade (hey, truth, what a concept). So if you get an 88 (actual grade) in an AP class, then you have an 88, but it’s recorded as B+H, which instead of being 3.33 is 3.83 in the GPA calculation. But it’s an 88 for Hope, and get the +0.5 add on to the GPA.

Seems like the easiest way is to actually give kids the grades they get (and boost the GPA if needed for harder classes, but don’t give a false sense of what grade they earned).

That said, since the Zell Miller is at 3.7, it seems only fair that an AP “A” should also get a 0.5 add-on, otherwise an A student with no APs is at an advantage over an A student (ACTUAL A STUDENT) with APs. And that’s just not right.

Write Your Board Members

April 25th, 2011
8:02 am

documents worked for me — they aren’t real transcripts Dunwoody Mom, just a spread sheet type document.

The difference is in what a D is. There are areas of the country (and maybe within GA still) where an A is 93-100, not 90-100…

Dunwoody Mom

April 25th, 2011
8:24 am

@catlady, kind of just talking out loud here, but, including AP classes/scores into the mix – wouldn’t that punish students who don’t have access to but a few AP classes. Not all schools can provide a ton of AP options and I know some of the smaller private schools offer none.

Maureen Downey

April 25th, 2011
8:24 am

@Dunwoody, Not sure why they didn’t load for you as I just tested. It takes a second or two for the charts to appear.

Dunwoody Mom

April 25th, 2011
8:25 am

Maureen, they still won’t load. I get a google docs error.

HS Public Teacher

April 25th, 2011
8:29 am

While we are at it…

How about the differences between the ‘easy’ high schools and the academically ‘challenging’ high schools. They do exist. An A in one certainly does not equal an A in the other.

Case in point… the valadictorian from MLK high school flunked out of GA Tech after a couple of semesters. Obviously there is a problem.

How the State level the playing field?

starting to wake up

April 25th, 2011
8:30 am

You never realize what GCPS is all about until your child reaches the HS level. Families flock to Gwinett for the schools and at the ES level things are great. As the years go by and your child is pushed more and more, MS is the wake up call. By 8th grade it is stunning what they expect of the students and of the parents. It is confusing to figure out and maddening at the same time. Especially when you see what is not expected in the other systems areound metro ATL.

It is no wonder that I see more and more parents pulling their kids, when struggling, out of GCPS in the MS years. It is dishearting to realize you made a concious effort to live in a “world class” school district that caters to the wrong kids and demands the others to pick up the slack to make up the difference.

O

April 25th, 2011
8:31 am

What we need is the desire to compete and the willingness to provide a true assesment of each students ability. I spoke with a friend of mine from India recently who said our school system (US) was a mess. In India they can choose which school their children attend based on the schools performance. If a parent does not believe a school is giving their child the best education they can move them to another school. This prevents the mediocrity we seem to adore today. Allow parents to use vouchers so they can choose the school of their choice. Schools with poor teachers and adminstrations will either improve or have to close due to decreases in enrollment. I believe this is exactly why many private schools outperformm public schools. The students really have to earn their grades and the teachers have to deliver or they lose their jobs. I also believe the problem lies in a shift in our societies view of being a productive citizen. Parents going to school and fighting with teachers over grades. In Asia, parents make their children study at night and they make them follow rules. I don’t think you will find too many Asian schools worried about unschooling the school. They know success comes from hard work and knowledge. The feel good education Clark Aldrich supports fits right into our societies current user versus producer mentality. Go play outside, don’t pursue higher level math courses, forget homework and just feel good about yourself. We have lowered our education standards to the lowest common denominator and unless we wake up and really demand change the future does not look very bright for our country

Maureen Downey

April 25th, 2011
8:34 am

@Dunwoody, If you want, send me an e-mail and I will send the charts to you. Not sure why you are getting an error as the documents shows that users are accessing them and viewing them.
Maureen

mdowney@ajc.com

Rich

April 25th, 2011
8:40 am

HS Public Teacher – A lot of reaaly smart student flunck out of GT after a few semesters. The difference between staying in and flunking out is if you learned how to study. Those who made A’s in highschool without trying will have more trouble at Tech than those who were not as smart, but learned how to study.

Rich

April 25th, 2011
8:43 am

Life is not fair and I’am not sure the hope will every be fair. In addition to the differences that you have in the way systems count grades, you have grade inflation and home schoolers being treated differently. Maybe the Hope program should only pay after the B average is made in college.

Jennifer

April 25th, 2011
8:43 am

If you don’t make any D’s, you don’t have to worry about it. No one is entitled to HOPE.

Rich

April 25th, 2011
8:45 am

Sorry about the typo.

A Conservative Voice

April 25th, 2011
8:45 am

Seems to me this has morphed into a social network site where everyone can tell their sob stories. You know folks, you’re getting something and I’ve always heard that 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing. This is a big state with 159 counties and many, many more school systems when you include the city systems. Learn to deal with the disparities…..if you’ve got a problem with it, write your representative…..that’s what they were elected for and that’s why we’re paying them all that money :) . Susie and little Ralphy will make it, somehow…..this is part of the learning process.

Dunwoody Mom

April 25th, 2011
8:50 am

Finally got it to load, Maureen….

a reader

April 25th, 2011
8:54 am

Back on topic – how did they take this student’s A away from them? Was it not really an A? Don’t need the state to actually have schools issue *real* grades.

Ridge

April 25th, 2011
9:21 am

“I believe this is exactly why many private schools outperformm public schools. The students really have to earn their grades and the teachers have to deliver or they lose their jobs.”

Private schools are the worst about pandering to their customers and grade inflation. I can’t tell you the number of ‘always struggling’ students that have been pulled out of public and put into private only to magically start making straight A’s. You have to be the worst of the worst teacher or not be a butt kisser to parents to get fired as a private school teacher.

Tim

April 25th, 2011
9:27 am

Conservative voice, thanks for getting off your high horse to share your “insights”

Techmom

April 25th, 2011
9:27 am

HOPE should simply be calculated based on the number grade regardless of the system’s grading scale. Schools have to report the number grade now anyway, why they’re transferring to a 4.0 scale is beyond me. Seems like a bunch of needless calculations. That way a 90 is a 90 is a 90 regardless of where you go.

Rich

April 25th, 2011
9:27 am

Now that many have voiced concern over the fact that the current Hope process could be made better. How do we make it better? Use the SAT scores? Georgia Highschool graduation test? Any ideas on making it better for all, not just our kids?

JJohnson

April 25th, 2011
9:29 am

“Seems to me this has morphed into a social network site where everyone can tell their sob stories.”

How is it a “sob story” when students in one county are held more accountable than students in a neighboring country? A marginal student in Dekalb can expect better grades and a much higher chance for HOPE than an a high achiever in Gwinnett will ever get.

Parents in Dekalb better think twice before trying to sneak their kids over the border to Gwinnett. It is quite obvious your kid is better off where they are at.

Ashley

April 25th, 2011
9:41 am

Whatever happen to an A(90-100) B(89-80) C(79-70) D(69-65) F(64 and below)? Heard some schools were doing away with the “D” and some schools don’t even give “F”. If all schools in Georgia had the same grading systems you wouldn’t have all this turmoil, of course conflict seems to be the rule of thumb in Georgia schools especially when it comes to the children and their education.

MiltonMan

April 25th, 2011
9:45 am

Ridge = clueless on private school grade “inflation.” My son will be graduating soon from a private school with a 4.2 GPA. No grade inflation needed and he has already secured 1/2 year of college credit taking AP Calculus, Chemistry & Biology. Funny thing is that one of the under classmen was kicked out of school for bringing pot. What public school would do that?

MiltonMan

April 25th, 2011
9:46 am

Send your kid to Berry. According to their admissions office, 90% of the scholarships offered are need based.

Dunwoody Mom

April 25th, 2011
9:49 am

@MiltonMan – you don’t need to go to private school to take those AP classes nor to have a 4.2 GPA. Also, just recently, a local private catholic school “requested” a student to leave when this student complained about being bullied….just saying…..

Gail

April 25th, 2011
9:54 am

I think they changed to the 4.0 scale a few years ago when the first signs of HOPE financial trouble started to show. By using the 4.0 scale rather than a number average, high As don’t help high Bs or Cs (or even low Cs from Gwinnett County) when figuring the final average. An 89 is the same as an 80. The point was most likely to reduce the number of students eligible for HOPE. I was told the reason the Zell Miller Scholar GPA is 3.7 is they wanted to limit it to the top 10% of students.

Tim Shaw

April 25th, 2011
9:56 am

Growing up I was always told “what’s done in the dark will soon come to light”. At the end of the day life is a game and those who learn to rules of the game manipulate it; those who work hard will win most of the time; those who cheat and don’t prepare themselves will lose most of the time and those who are “talented” will have about a 50/50 chance depending on many factors. So where does this leave us? What is going on in the world today and specifically in the USA is based on all that was done in the dark in years passed. There are two other ways to put it “what goes around comes around” or “you will reap what you sow”. In this country we’ve made a mess of things particularly socially and it is beginning to catch up with us. What the “majority” is starting to deal with has been dealt with by minorities since the beginning and now all of a sudden things are not working. The bottom line is this, we’ve got to get back to basic principles and values or else suffer the consequences. The issues with HOPE are only surface level issues – with no changes, it’s only the beginning of the worst that is to come.

A Conservative Voice

April 25th, 2011
9:58 am

@JJohnson

April 25th, 2011
9:29 am
“Seems to me this has morphed into a social network site where everyone can tell their sob stories.”

How is it a “sob story” when students in one county are held more accountable than students in a neighboring country? A marginal student in Dekalb can expect better grades and a much higher chance for HOPE than an a high achiever in Gwinnett will ever get.

JJohnson, if you had read further, I said to talk with your representative……that’s what he’s there for. How do you think commenting on this blog is going to help your child?

Really amazed

April 25th, 2011
10:06 am

@Ridge, sorry that would be the other way around!!! I don’t know what private school your taking about. The truly preputable challenging ones will not budge on a grade or extra credit for nothing!!!!!!! @O, you have this one totally right. The children from our private school that are struggling are the ones removed to public then magically make straight A’s because they couldn’t handle the work load and demands of the challenging private!

JJohnson

April 25th, 2011
10:10 am

“I said to talk with your representative……that’s what he’s there for. How do you think commenting on this blog is going to help your child?”

I do correspond with my representive … as well as my state senator, US senator, and my school board, etc, etc, etc. There are many people that have been voicing our opinions and sharing our ideas regarding everything schools to illegal immigration.

Unfortunately, illegal immigration has help to bury our schools and the powers that be are finally listening, if only somewhat.

I also bet you many of the people telling their “sob stories” do in fact voice their opinions on higher levels. Sorry that we did not devulge that little factoid to you as well.

Ridge

April 25th, 2011
10:20 am

@ MiltonMan

Your post (brag blog) has grade inflation spattered all over it. You can not see the forest for the trees!

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

April 25th, 2011
10:30 am

A Conservative Voice:

Commenting on this blog is no substitute for political and educational involvements. Hopefully, reading and writing on this blog will spur us to write legislators, partner with like-minded folks to effect political and educational changes, visit our kids’ schools et al.

If we use this blog only to blow off steam, we are misusing it and squandering a real opportunity to help make our educational and political institutions serve The People’s interests in an educated citizenry and in honest governance rather than special interests.

MannyT

April 25th, 2011
10:33 am

This problem is entirely based in how the school systems chose to assign letter grades to numeric values. If this is a real concern for Gwinnett schools, they should adjust their grading system. In reality we are talking about students that fall on the edge of a level the same way some kid gets 89 or 90 in a class and gets an entirely different letter grade. The problem of being very close to a cutoff has always existed…this is just the HOPE version.

Well before the HOPE “fixes” came out, I suggested on this blog and to several politicians that eligibility be based on class rank within each school. If the state can afford scolarships for 12%, 23%, or X% of the HS senior class, the state would make that known to the school systems the year before and the eligible students will get their HOPE.

While that would not change the grades of the Gwinnett students, at least the entire system would use the same grading policies to rank their students. This ranking doesn’t penalize students because of comparisons across school systems. Also, the politicians & families would have some level of comfort knowing that their school system would get the same percentage of state sponsored HOPE as any other.

The additional benefit, is that class rank neutralizes grade inflation within the school. Even if your school gives out Bs like pollen in the spring, the school has to use its class rank to differentiate the 25th best student from the 26th best.

…and for those who want to bring up the problems of dual enrollment students & class rank, it is a ruling that is made at the school system level, so the fix is within the control of the school system to make sure they properly rank their dual enrolled students within their grading processes.

Tim Shaw

April 25th, 2011
10:41 am

@MannyT
Excellent idea

What's the big deal...

April 25th, 2011
10:49 am

…everybody knows Dekalb schools are better than Gwinnett schools…the white folks just can’t deal with black folks being smarter by knowing how to “use” the system…

What's best for kids

April 25th, 2011
10:50 am

I think we need to bring back the D. Now we have C: “Average” and F: “Failing”. A 75 is no longer average, which is bothersome to me. Now kids and parents jockey for the 80 + for “the HOPE”. Yet there are some students who just want to graduate and get a job, and many of them will drop out of high school because they are failing. BRING BACK THE D!!!!!

catlady

April 25th, 2011
11:10 am

Dunwoody Mom–I would venture to say that every high school offers at least 1. Let’s say for HOPE you have to submit test scores for 1. At my high school, there are 3 or 4 APs–that’s it. Are smaller high schools’ students at a disadvantage. Perhaps. But taking an AP course and making a 3 or higher shows readiness to do college level work.

Parent and Educator

April 25th, 2011
11:20 am

HOPE strips out local grade weights, then adds .5 for each AP or IB grade (see http://www.bufordcityschools.org/bhs/files/counseling/HOPE%20GPA%20Flyer.pdf). Does the information on the “transcripts” show if the added 10 points for each AP grade has been pulled off, as should happen for a Gwinnett school transcript? Certain school systems have tried to game the system by adding points to teacher grades, shuffling grading scales (when Gwinnett went to their current grading scale, it was retroactive for students), etc. Until the state has a common grading scale, each system must choose their own method, and the teachers and students know what is required to meet the specific grade. And this does not seem to be about a good vs bad system, as the difference between the two GPA’s is .03. The Gwinnett student made a D because they did D work in the eyes of the teacher and the school, so they have to live with a D grade.

Veteran teacher, 2

April 25th, 2011
11:32 am

Do the work, learn the material, and strive for excellence in all work done. Students that don’t cut corners and look for the easy way out usually make the top grades. Those that gripe about how hard everything is, rank all other activities (sports, horses, family time, etc.) ahead of school work, make excuses for everything, and look for loopholes within the rules argue about how GPA’s are figured. I have even heard parents argue with themselves in looking for an advantage for their lazy kid.

Some classes are more difficult; some teachers are more demanding. Adust accordingly and PRODUCE!!

student

April 25th, 2011
11:33 am

All schools will never be equal. I know my parents intentionally moved to a good school district because that was important to them.

David Sims

April 25th, 2011
11:39 am

I found a two-year-old news item and thought I’d mention it, in case you didn’t hear about it earlier. It does have to do with education.

Bill Nye, a slight man with a “Mr. Rogers” look about him, known for his role as “The Science Guy,” went to Waco, Texas, to give a lecture on different science topics suitable for children. In his speech, he mentioned that the moon does not shine by its own light, but reflects the light of the sun.

A number of people who heard that began booing, because they are fundamentalist Christians who take the Bible literally. And the Bible says, in its very first chapter, that God made “two great lights,” the moon and the sun. The offended Christians, besides booing, disrupted the lecture by storming out, with some of them shouting “WE BELIEVE IN GOD!”

The Waco Tribune, which originally covered the story, has censored itself for reasons unknown to me at this time.

A Conservative Voice

April 25th, 2011
11:43 am

@What’s best for kids

April 25th, 2011
10:50 am
BRING BACK THE D!!!!!

Actually, I think a better idea would be to bring back the S – U – F. In case none of you “youngsters” know what those letters mean, here it is……S = Satisfactory, U = Unsatisfactory and F = Failing. I bet you that grading system would bring the grades up a bit.