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Easier A's paying off two ways

Grades buoyed by a more generous grading system improve students' parental rewards and national scholarship odds.

By MELANIE AVE

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 31, 2001


Grades buoyed by a more generous grading system improve students' parental rewards and national scholarship odds.

TAMPA -- Today is report card day and all around Hillsborough County the wallets of parents will be a bit leaner.

Students such as Plant High's Lakeysha Lanier and Freddie Johnson will have more A's on their first nine-week report cards, which go out today for all middle and high schools in Hillsborough.

Thanks to a new grading scale approved by the Legislature this year, it's now easier for students across the state to earn A's and avoid F's.

"It gets your expectations higher," said Johnson, who received at least two additional A's, worth $5 each from his mother. "When you get higher grades like an A or B, you strive better the next time."

The new scale means students will earn A's with scores above 90, B's between 80 and 89, C's from 70 to 79 and D's between 60 and 69. Before, students earned A's with scores above 94, B's from 85 to 93, C's between 77 and 84 and D's from 70 to 76.

Lawmakers changed the scale to better align Florida with other states with less restrictive scales, which they said put students at a disadvantage when competing for national scholarships.

Lanier, who expects no grade below a B, said she's more excited than ever to show her parents her grades.

"Most of the time I won't show them the report card," she said.

Mike Pena said he'll be out more cash to his sons -- 12-year-old Justin and 16-year-old Michael -- because of improved grades. But he's not paying until he sees the report cards.

"Right now," he said, "it's hearsay."

While many teachers and parents said they favor the new scale, students are by far the greatest supporters.

"Everybody likes it because they can get better grades," said Erin Moore, a Wilson Middle School eighth-grader who credits the scale with giving her one additional A. "I know people who had a 93 last year and got a B. Now they'll get an A."

For many students, the improved grades mean reward money from parents, special lunches with the principal, and for a select few, pricey gifts like new cars.

Plant High sophomore Sheyna Mathews now will qualify for the honor roll after struggling with her grades last year. Her stepfather has told her if she can earn a 3.2 average by the end of the year, she'll get a new car.

"I think it's like real great," said Mathews. "I came here like a year ago. I didn't speak any English at all, and last year all my grades were D's. Now all my grades are A's and B's. Wow."

Wilson Middle School eighth-grader Aaron Farnsworth, 13, said he now qualifies for the high honor roll with no C's on his report card. He might earn a pass that will allow him to go to the front of the lunch line.

"It's definitely a lot better," he said, giving a thumb's up. "It makes me feel better about myself."

Some students who expected drastic results, however, are puzzled by a lack of improvement.

Wilson eighth-grader Cy Morgan said his grades will be a mix of A's, B's and C's, just like last year.

"I thought it was going to help, but it really didn't," said the 13-year-old.

His theory?

"Teachers made it harder to get higher grades," Morgan said. "I don't think it's fair."

While the honor rolls are growing, teachers said they have seen the most strides in the lowest achievers.

Blake reading teacher Marte Watson said her students who might have failed were able to make D's.

That makes her happy as a teacher, but she's also thrilled as the parent of a high school student.

"I can tell you, as a parent, it's been nice," she said. "I don't have to sweat it out as much."

-- Melanie Ave can be reached at 226-3400 or melanie@sptimes.com.

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