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    New scale eases grading standard

    Gov. Jeb Bush signs a bill that puts Florida schools in line with other states: A is 90 and up, B is 80 to 89, C is 70 to 79 and D is 60 to 69.

    ©Associated Press

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 15, 2001


    TALLAHASSEE -- It'll be easier to earn an A in Florida's schools next year after Gov. Jeb Bush signed a bill Thursday that creates a more lenient grading scale.

    The governor made the decision after asking for advice from a group of high school students in the Capitol Rotunda outside the House chamber.

    When asked by a reporter about signing the bill that would give students A grades when they score 90 or higher, Bush turned to Keith Clarke, a student from Kathleen High School in Lakeland and governor-elect of Boys State.

    "I'm all for changing the scale," Clarke said.

    "All right, I'll do it," responded Bush, prompting a cheer by another two dozen members of Boys State, a weeklong civic gathering of top Florida high school students.

    The new 10-point grading scale means students will earn B's with scores between 80 and 89, C's between 70-79, D's from 60-69.

    Previously, students earned A's with grades between 94 and 100, B's were between 85-93, C's from 77-84 and D's from 70-76.

    Senate Education Chairman Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, said he sponsored the bill because Florida's grading scale was more restrictive than most other states, leaving its students at a disadvantage when competing for national scholarships.

    "It sets a common standard between our states and the majority of other states," state Rep. Jeffrey Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, said earlier this year.

    Bush vetoed a similar measure last year.

    "Last year's bill did not make it a statewide standard," Bush explained Thursday. "It made it a county option. That didn't make much sense."

    The governor also conceded he was more worried about the perception of lowering standards a year ago.

    "The kids that work hard and do well are going to get into college," he said.

    Around the Tampa Bay area, educators interviewed Thursday were mixed on the idea of a new grading scale.

    "I really think it's going to end up with watered-down A's," said Lou Perry, an assistant principal at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg. "I personally don't like it. I think an A should be hard to get."

    But Greg Bryant, an anatomy and physiology teacher at Countryside High School in Clearwater, disagreed.

    Before, it was so tough to get an A or a B, Bryant said some teachers had to water down tests or curve results so some students would get top grades.

    "It finally puts us with other states around the nation," Bryant said. "I don't think it'll make that big of a difference. I don't think it'll be giving anything away."

    In Hillsborough, school Superintendent Earl Lennard said he doesn't think the grading change will lower the standard or have much of an effect on the schools' instructional program.

    Although he was not one of those pushing for the change, he said it will make the playing field more even between public schools and the private schools that already use the grading scale signed into law Thursday.

    "I think it's fine as long as we are consistent throughout the state," Lennard said. "My major concern is that we still maintain a uniform grading system."

    Meanwhile, Largo High School principal Barbara Thornton said she has not sensed any concern among her teachers about the new grading scale. After all, the 90-100 A scale was in place for her and most of the teachers who work for her when they were in school.

    Pinellas School Board member Linda Lerner said the same thing: When she was in school, a 90 was an A, and she doesn't think standards were much lower.

    "The grading scale doesn't matter," Thornton said. "It's really the expectations we have in the classroom. I think, in the scheme of things, with all the other things we're concerned about, I don't think it's been a priority issue."

    - Staff writers Kelly Ryan and Melanie Ave contributed to this report.

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