In North Carolina, all public schools are required to grade students on a seven-point scale. That means you get an A if you score between a 93 and 100, and a B if it falls between an 85 and 92.
But one high school student is trying to change that - he says the current scale is unfair and is asking state leaders to consider adopting a 10-point scale instead so that a 90 to a 100 is an A.
Members of the Broughton High School debate team begin their practice as soon as most students clear out the Raleigh school.
Sixteen-year-old Lydia Trogdon serves as the chair of the practice, otherwise referred to as a house committee. But instead of a podium, she has a green metal desk. Instead of legislators, there are about a dozen eager teenagers. And instead of a gavel, well, there’s an iPhone app.
"The chair would now like to recognize the main pro speaker Adam Geringer for his six-minute opening statement,"says Trogdon.
Fifteen-year-old Adam Geringer is the reason the debate team convened today. He wants to convince his fellow students – or lawmakers – why teachers should stop grading on a seven-point scale.
"To prolong the seven point grading scale is just stupid. It puts our students at a sheer disadvantage and is hurting our students by continuing these policies," he says.
Geringer says students should get an A if they score between a 90 and a 100. He says that would boost their GPAs and make them more competitive with students at private schools and in other states.
"NC Students are essentially running a 10 mile race, while other students are only running a 10K. The fact that we prolong these failed policies is beyond the reach of my mental capacity," he says.
It definitely was not beyond the mental capacity of his opponent. Junior Taylor Howard made grand gestures with his arms as he spoke.
"If you wish to damn our generation, then vote for this bill," he loudly declared.
Howard slammed the proposal to change the state’s grading scale, saying it would make it too easy for students to get an A.
"It’s a competitive world, as we see China is on the rise, education scores in Europe are very high and the only way we can improve our scores instead of lowering the bar is by raising it, we need to motivate our students," Howard says.
All of this is not just a class exercise. Not too long ago, Geringer sent his bill to policymakers in Raleigh.
"So basically I just had this weird idea to just sketch it up, I actually sent it to my ex-girlfriend’s dad who’s a lobbyist, and he bounced it around through a couple of the legislators downtown," he says.
Under Geringer's proposal, students would still be graded on a seven point scale. But their GPAs would be readjusted for college admissions.
A and B's would be on a ten point scale, while C and D ranges would be smaller so that below a 70 is still failing. Geringer also suggests including individual class averages on transcripts so colleges can see how students perform relative to one another.
"The proposal is not a bad proposal," says Rob Hines, Director of LEA projects at NC's Department of Public Instruction.
Hines says in addition to Geringer, several concerned parents have recently reached out to him, which has given the issue some traction.
"The main thing is I would like to make sure that whatever we do, we don’t end up putting students in a worse position and I think this is one of the things that folks on the State Board have considered and will continue to consider," he says.
But first some questions need to be answered, says Hines. Like how would a new grading scale affect graduation rates, for example.
Right now, North Carolina is one of only five states that require all districts to adopt a seven-point scale.
"Some of the issues that we’ve been trying to think through is understanding the impact on college admissions and whether or not there really is an impact," he says.
So is there one? Are students on a seven-point scale really at a disadvantage?
"I don’t want to say it’s wholly false, but it’s close to it," says David Hawkins, Director of Public Policy and Research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
Hawkins says universities understand that states and schools use different grading scales.
"Most colleges account for that somehow, they may not have a specific formula, but they do all get what we call a school profiles, which is a relatively brief document that describes high schools and their grading scales and policies and data," he says.
Hawkins say about half of colleges also have formulas to recalculate GPAs, to make things fair.
But Adam Geringer says he doesn’t want to take any chances – he has heart set on McGill University in Canada and is worried that his North Carolina GPA won’t compare. Back in debate practice, he makes his closing remarks.
"I guess what I’m trying to say is we’re not providing schools with enough information, the vital information to calculate grades… So let’s level out the playing field. Vote yes and move North Carolina to the 10-point grading scale," he says.
And the final vote is 5-4. The bill fails. At least within this classroom. Geringer says he will keep pushing for it in the real world.