Nutley Schools' Grading Just Got Tougher
Superintendent, school administrators said 14-year-old grading system hurt students' college acceptance chances
Nutley's public schools are scrapping a 14-year grading system that critics said inflated grade point averages and hurt students' chances of being accepted to college.
The system in place since the late 1990s has a maximum grade point average in excess of 4.0, the number that most school districts and colleges recognize as the standard for a perfect GPA. Under the existing system, an excessive number of students qualified for the honor society, school officials said at Tuesday night's board of education meeting.
Russell Lazovick, the Nutley superintendent of schools, said the changes are necessary.
"We need to make sure students know where they stand, with greater transparency," Lazovick said. "Also, we want colleges to be able to judge them on the same system as other districts."
He quoted an educational study that focused on "the harm of local grading in a world of standards," and said Nutley and other districts across the country can be hurt if the accepted standards are not used.
So now, letter grades value will translate to numbers in the standard way that most school districts follow, and Lazovick said that the teaching must improve so that students properly earn the higher scores.
"Teachers must ratchet up the rigor for students, so it is harder to get the grade," he said. "We want colleges to know that our top performing students are on par with top performing students in other districts."
Jill Divilio, the district director of guidance, fought back tears in talking about how she feared that old system may have hurt students' chances of getting into the school they wanted. She said she had spoken with 14 different college admission directors.
"The last question I asked them [college acceptance directors] was, 'Am I hurting my kids?'" Divilio said right before she choked back tears, saying minutes later that the answer was, "Absolutely not."
Still, High School Principal Denis Williams, who like Divilio graduated from Nutley High School, said most teachers did not agree with the plans to inflate grades about 14 years ago, when the changes were made.
"Because of inflation, literally half of the students could have qualified for the honor society," Williams said. "A lot of colleges said they have to work out the differences, and I didn't like that."
The changes started with the current school year, with all students previous grades to be kept the same, Lazovick said.