Champions of Change

Boothbay Region High School: Raise the passing score to an acceptable standard

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 7:00am

This is the fourth of several feature articles we are publishing which were written by Boothbay Region High School’s AP Language students. According to BRHS AP Language teacher Mark Gorey, the articles are a different incarnation of their Champions of Change proposals. One of the requirements for this assignment was to cite research sources.

In our community at BRHS, we do all we can to prepare students for the brightest futures possible. In my years attending school at Boothbay, I have seen the extensive help given to those in need and received some myself. From extra assistance with math, to having someone to go over your essays, the support structure to succeed is there, as long as one is willing to seek it out.

However, despite this, we still see kids putting minimal effort in and learning nothing while still passing. While there are students able to skate by here, just up the road at Wiscasset the passing standard is a 70, ten points higher than we have in Boothbay (“Wiscasset”). In a survey answered by a majority of our student body, 94.1 percent of respondents said they were motivated to have
a passing or “good” grade (a grade up to one’s personal standards varies depending on the student). Similar to this, a study at the University of Michigan found 80 percent of students surveyed based their self-worth on academic performance (Dittmann). The only way to combat the lack of motivation, boost grades, and give students a better chance in life is by raising the passing standard from 60 to 70.

This change would not only push students to complete work at a higher level, but it would also better prepare students for a college grading scale and align us with top schools in the state and country, such as the Maine School of Science and Mathematics a.k.a. MSSM (“Home”). While I have been a member of the Boothbay school system a majority of my life, during my sophomore year I took a brief sabbatical and headed up north to attend MSSM. The standards there are incredibly rigorous, with 69.5 being the minimum passing grade and having grades in multiple classes below 79.5 places students on academic probation (“Community”). However, the resulting motivation of its students is unparalleled. In addition to MSSM having a higher passing grade, there are also examples of higher standards being upheld right here in Lincoln County. Wiscasset High School has a minimum passing standard of 70, so if we were to increase the passing standard of our school we wouldn’t be alone, but rather in alignment with other schools in our region (“Wiscasset”). I believe our community here is capable of great things, especially with the right system in place.

In an interview with Ben Powell, a prestigious, advanced-mathematics instructor here at Boothbay, we discussed his thoughts on raising the passing standard from a 60 to a 70, about which he had a lot to say. Opening by stating “I think that would be a great idea,” he went on to address concerns others may bring up in that “Some people might say, ‘oh but if we raise the passing standard some teachers will just make [a 70] easier to get by scaling up their grading and making what was before a D now a C’; I personally wouldn’t change my grading at all, and I am sure it would not impact how many of my colleagues grade either.”

Mr. Powell’s faith in his colleagues was far from unfounded, as, in interviews with other teachers in the school, such as Mr. Nick Scott, they also had similar responses, stating in no uncertain terms that they wouldn’t change how they graded in the slightest. Mr. Powell and the staff at Boothbay Region High School know the level of work students are capable of and expect nothing less. In addition to this, Powell, along with 42.4 percent of the surveyed student population here at BRHS, agreed that having a 60 and passing does not illustrate an adequate level of understanding in a subject.

Citing examples from his Pre-Calculus class, Powell mentioned how there are students currently who do not understand the material but will be able to make it through the class with a passing grade. He goes on to explain how this will only hurt them in the long run, as they are passing but lack a sufficient understanding of the material; they do not even try to catch up, but only get more confused and further behind as the class goes on. This problem is not unique to these students in Mr. Powell’s class, but rather a school-wide phenomenon, which I have encountered myself. There have been instances where I have fallen behind in subjects and not felt any exigency to catch up as I was still doing well (grade wise) in the class. Allowing students to continue through school without properly learning the subject-matter damages their success in the long run and creates a problem in our school system and the community as a whole. While having a passing grade is important, we should not settle for mere mediocrity. The point of school is ​learning and we cannot allow students to simply settle for an acceptable grade while lacking the knowledge that grade is supposed to reflect.
During my interview with him, Daniel Welch, Principal of Boothbay Region High School, mentioned he had given “serious thought” to the issue of raising the passing standard and would be interested in looking into this more in the future. He supports actually learning as opposed to purely pushing for a grade and agrees that with a passing standard of 70 it would be definitively more difficult for one to obtain a passing grade without actually learning a majority of the material from a course.

I ask the community and our esteemed school board, for the good of our students, for our longevity, for our livelihood, to increase the passing standard from 60 to 70 to ensure excellence and promote success within our school system. By boosting the minimum passing standard we will be increasing the students’ motivation to try in their classes, set them up for success later in life, and boost the overall well-being of our school and community.

Works Cited

“Community Handbook - The Maine School of Science and Mathematics.” MSSM, Status

Dittmann. “Self-Esteem That's Based on External Sources Has Mental Health Consequences, Study Says.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, Dec. 2002,

“Home - The Maine School of Science and Mathematics.” Home - The Maine School of Science and Mathematics,

Powell, Ben. STEM instructor at Boothbay Region High School. Personal Interview. June 2019.

Scott, Nick. Social studies teacher at Boothbay Region High School. Personal Interview. June 2019.

Welch, Daniel. Principal of Boothbay Region High School. Personal interview. June 2019.

“Wiscasset School Department Home of the Wolverines.” Wiscasset School Department,