Academic Excellence at GMC
Since GMC was founded as a school, students have been challenged with completing courses with a minimum grade of 80%. This number has defined what “mastery” at GMC is until now. In 2016, Greenville County Schools switched to a 10 point grading scale and GMC followed. Other schools that switched to the new grading scale also changed the grade students have to make in class in order to pass to offset the new benchmarks. However, GMC did not do this and complications have risen as a result.
As seen in this graphic, before 2016, when schools still used the former grading scale, students at GMC that were at an 80% mastery level passed classes with a C and had an average GPA of 2.375. After the switch to the new 10 point scale, in order for students to pass at an 80% mastery level, they must be passing with a B and have an average GPA of 3.0. This is problematic because of eligibility and competition for extracurricular activities and scholarships. These higher standards for students have forced academic clubs like Beta Club to increase the GPA requirement for new inductees. They have done this to combat the high levels of students that were eligible for admittance into the club under the new grading scale.
Student eligibility for state scholarships such as Palmetto fellows (3.5 GPA requirement) and Life Scholarship (3.0 GPA requirement) have also become much more attainable under the new standards. According to GMC student records, there has been a 26.5% increase of students eligible for these scholarships from before the new grading scale in 2016, to after the switch was made for the 2017 school year. (This percent disregards that test scores are also taken into account for scholarships). This could be considered an accomplishment for the school but what is the point of giving scholarships that are meant to reward above average work if everyone is receiving them? And are these numbers simply being reached because teachers are inflating grades to combat the high failure rates of classes?
Some teachers are weary of the change because they fear it means lowering GMC’s standards. However, high prestige is not the point of GMC. According the school’s charter, Greer Middle College Charter High School’s mission “is to provide equitable opportunities for all students to acquire an education." If this is true, then it is no wonder that some teachers are pushing for a change in the grade that qualifies a student to pass a class. Teacher Crystal Earl said that, under the current system, “there is no room for an average student at GMC”. Dropout rates accurately reflect this fear as grades and mastery is the top reason parents gave for their students withdraw for the 2017-2018 school year. This can be fixed if GMC changes the grade for Mastery.
Some of the GMC’s goals and objectives as described in the school charter are in conflict and this could be a factor as to why so many teachers are in disagreement regarding whether or not the school should make the change. The charter describes both the desire to challenge their students with “rigorous” course work, as well as wanting to stay in line with both “state and national standards for mastery of academic” material. At some point, teachers and administration will need to decide what kind of environment they are wanting to provide for their students at GMC.
Is GMC an elite, and somewhat prestigious high school that subsequently increases competition between students and decreases the amount of eclectic students? Or is it a more conventional high school that has achievable standards but that fosters an environment of diversity, family, achievement, and growth?