LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Jefferson County Board of Education voted Monday to approve changing the district's grading scale, effective with the 2015-16 year, in order to "level the playing field" with students in other districts across the state.

The plan, which changes the cutoff for an A from 90-100 percent, while a B would drop to 80 to 89 percent, a C 75-79 percent, a D 70 to 74 percent and the score for a U as anything below 70 percent, was approved by 5-1 vote, with board member Linda Duncan voting against it and board member Chuck Haddaway absent.

District officials say the change takes into account the "more rigorous content standards" and "supports equal opportunity for and levels the playing field for JCPS students as compared to students in other districts using 90-100 and 80-89 to earn scholarships and receive jobs."

Karen Branham, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the district is not "lowering expectations for our students, but making adjustments to ensure rigor."

"We have been researching this possible change for the past two years and seeking input from stakeholders and staff," said Branham. "The true goal of the recommendation is to do what is best for our students in JCPS."

Duncan said she voted against the change because she worries more students will fail because it will be "harder to earn a 70 percent with the new scale."

"Why keep 70 percent as passing when we have just raised our standards?" Duncan asked.

School board chairman David Jones Jr. said he wants to ensure that parents and students are receiving an accurate assessment of how they are doing and that schools aren't just passing them along.

School board member Diane Porter said she worries about the equity in grading overall, saying some students are graded differently than others.

Branham acknowledged that variations in grading has been a problem in JCPS. She said all schools will have to send two staff members to mandatory training this summer regarding the grading scale changes and policies.

"Our teachers must understand our policy so our grading practices are more uniform across the district," she said.

In February, JCPS sent a survey to parents indicating that a revised grading scale would help students compete for Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (state scholarship) money.

Branham told board members Monday that officials that one graduating class of approximately 370 seniors would have received an additional $168,000 in state scholarship money had the grading scale been different this year.

The results of this year's survey showed that 85 percent of elementary respondents -- which includes principals, assistant principals, teachers, staff members and parents -- were in support in of the change. At the middle school level, 84 percent were in support of the changes, while 91 percent of stakeholders at the high school level were in support of it.

Four of the five counties -- Bullitt, Oldham, Spencer and Shelby -- surrounding Jefferson County are roughly using the same scale as the one approved Monday night.

The district's previous grading scale stated that a student who scores a 93 to 100 percent earns an A, while a B is the equivalent of 86 to 92 percent, a C equals 79 to 85 percent and a D is 70 to 78 percent, while a U is anything below 70 percent.

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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