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Inconsistent grading disappoints dual-enrollment students

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Stockbridge High School senior, Candace Swords, said she has worked long, hard hours to prepare herself for the college experience.

Swords increased the rigor of her studies early in her high school career by taking Advanced Placement classes, and engaging in dual-enrollment studies at Clayton State University. However, the student's best-laid plans were dashed, when she learned she would not get full credit for her high marks in the state's dual-enrollment program.

The graduating senior said her letdown stemmed from her school's method of converting her high grades.

State officials acknowledge Swords is not alone in her complaints.

"We've had several calls this year about this issue ... about grade conversions," said Gary Mealer, transition career partnership coordinator with the Georgia Department of Education.

Mealer said thousands of students statewide take advantage of dual-enrollment programs at technical colleges, and senior colleges. Some 5,110 students, using the Hope Grant, were in dual enrollment in 2010. And an estimated 2,500 students filled more than 7,000 Accel Program spots in the state's public colleges in 2010.

Mealer said many dual-enrollment students, like Swords, learn late that their grade conversions are not governed directly by the colleges they attend, but by the school systems, and high schools, in which they are enrolled.

While the grades Swords earned at Clayton State were computed on a four-point scale, those same grades were computed differently at Stockbridge High School. She said they were computed on a 100-point scale.

The Stockbridge senior said many public colleges only offer letter grades, each counting one point on a four-point scale. Swords said converting those grades onto the traditional high school 100-point scale, is challenging. She explained that, while the difference between an "A" and a "B" is one point in college (between a 4.0 and a 3.0), that difference at the high school level is 10 points (between a 100 and a 90).

Swords believes she "unfairly" received 95 percent credit for her A-worthy academic performance in dual-enrollment classes at Clayton State University. Students at other schools, taking the same dual-enrollment class, may have gotten more credit because their schools may have given more credit for that "A" performance.

The official grade point average is a cumulative, weighted, numeric average in the Henry County School System, according to Tony Pickett, Henry's executive assistant to the Office of the Superintendent.

"This average is calculated by multiplying the student's weighted final grade by the number of Carnegie Units attempted for the course," Pickett said. "Dual-enrollment scores are weighted only in that they earn more units than traditional high school courses."

Pickett said the Georgia State Board of Education provides guidance on how much credit dual enrollments should receive in credits. Pickett said that post-secondary semester hour credits are converted to high school unit credits as such: one to two semester hours are equal to half (0.5) a high school unit, and three to five semester hours are equal to one high school unit. He added that, when the units are factored in the formula, it causes the grade to count more in the student's cumulative, weighted, numeric average.

While the state offers guidance on the quantity of credit high school dual-enrollment students receive in their college-level courses, the state does not offer direction on the quality of credit those students should receive on their final academic reports and grade-point averages.

"We leave it up to the local [school] systems to determine their grading policies," explained Mealer. "It's up to them to determine what their grades and policies are at the local level."

Mealer said the state only requires that dual-enrollment students earn credit for college-level courses in which they receive a numeric grade of 70 or above, as determined by their school system's grading conversion policy.

"I would advise the parent be sure to know what the grade conversion is going to be at their local school system," he said.

Mealer said guidance counselors are supposed to make dual-enrollment information available to students interested, along with their parents, by April of each year.

"We're trying to make sure these counselors and principals are aware, and are informing the parents about it, and how it can affect them," he added. "We want what's best for our kids -- what's best and what's fair."

Swords said she and her high school counselor have solved her dilemma. The student physically collected numeric grades from each of her college professors, to be directly converted into her grade-point average at high school.