Since she was elected the state’s superintendent of education in 2014, Molly Spearman has heard from both Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney and South Carolina coach Will Muschamp on at least one issue: the state’s uniform grading policy for high school students.

Making the Grade

State high schools are expected to shift from a 7-point grading scale to a 10-point scale next year.

7-point scale 10-point scale

A: 93-100 A: 90-100

B: 85-92 B: 80-89

C: 77-84 C: 70-79

D: 70-76 D: 60-69

F: 69-below F: 59-below

Spearman told the S.C. Athletic Administrators Association on Monday that the uniform grading policy is expected to shift from a 7-point grading scale to a 10-point scale beginning with the 2016-17 school year.

The policy shift will help “level the playing field” for students competing for scholarships and seeking NCAA academic eligibility, Spearman told the group of coaches and athletic directors meeting in Charleston.

The new grading scale won’t impact only student-athletes. Spearman said as many as 13,000 more students could be eligible for scholarships through the S.C. Education Lottery. “It’s looking like 12,000 to 13,000 more students might qualify,” she said. “So we’re working with the state Legislature to see if they see that as a good thing, so they can appropriate the numbers for next year.”

Spearman expects an official announcement on the policy change in the next week or two.

Currently, the state’s uniform grading policy says that a grade from 93-100 is an A; 85-92 is a B; 77-84 is a C; 70-76 is a D; and 69 and below is an F. A 10-point scale means that 90 to 100 is an A; 80-89 a B; 70-79 a C; and 60-69 a D.

The change will affect the way grade-point averages, or GPAs, are calculated for transcripts and class rank.

“It’s not about watering down grades,” she said. “It’s about helping to level the playing field for our students as they compete for scholarships with students from other states.”

State coaches and athletic directors say that S.C. student-athletes have been at a disadvantage since the current uniform grading scale went into effect in 2000-01. Spearman said she has been contacted by both Swinney and Muschamp on the issue.

“We have to get on a level playing field with our bordering states, North Carolina and Georgia,” said Dillon High School football coach Jackie Hayes, who is also a representative in the state Legislature. “A lot of those kids are able to get scholarships and kind of knock South Carolina kids out. It will create a very competitive environment and kind of equal the scales.”

For example. Hayes said, a student from North Carolina making a 90 in each class would have a grade-point average of 4.0 for NCAA eligibility purposes. A South Carolina student with the same grades would have a 3.0.

The NCAA uses a sliding GPA scale to determine what test score is needed for freshman eligibility. For example, a 2.5 GPA would require a combined score of 820 on the math and verbal sections of the SAT; a student with a 2.0 needs a score of 1,010.

North Carolina changed to the 10-point grading scale for the 2015-16 school year.

Rayven Teague, athletic director at Westside High in Anderson, worked in Georgia schools for 30 years and has seen the difference the grading scale can make.

“What we are talking about here for our student-athletes is amazing,” Teague said. “The student-athletes, more than anyone, have been affected by this because of NCAA requirements. They require you to take the numerical grade and put it on the state scale and convert it to the 4.0 scale.

“Of course, the lower you are on the 4.0 scale, the higher your (SAT) test score has to be. I think a lot of children just got a chance at a better life through sports.”

Spearman said it’s unclear at this time whether the new grading scale would be applied to grades already earned by current high school students.

“That issue is still under study,” she said.