News

Guest opinion: Raise students, not GPAs

 

Weighted grade point averages should be the exception, not the standard –– printed on transcripts only when a student needs a weighted GPA to apply for a merit scholarship. A weighted GPA sends the message that numbers define my academic worth, the exact message our community has long been trying to dispel.

Because Paly does not report weighted grades, I felt free to explore, join two publications, take theatre classes and experiment with nanotechnology. I didn’t feel the need to take every honors and AP course; I had the time to delve deep into my extracurriculars, make lasting memories with my high school friends and get a relatively reasonable amount of sleep.

At a school where we often share our grades with each other when a test is returned, unweighted GPAs protect us from ranking ourselves against one another when transcripts are handed out in advisory.

Superintendent Max McGee, Paly Principal Kim Diorio, Gunn Principal Denise Herrmann, the school guidance departments and tenured Paly teachers are all against weighted grade point averages.

Proponents of reporting weighted grades emphasize the need to align practices between the district’s two high schools and improve students’ college-admissions chances. But alignment can go either way, and Paly students’ unweighted GPAs have fared just fine in the college admissions process.

As of April 2015, Gunn was preparing to change to Paly’s unweighted system in hopes of reducing student stress. Principal Hermann told the Gunn Oracle: “We’ve checked in with some Ivy League schools and Stanford and they said that most highly selective schools completely ignore weighted grades because every high school in the United States weights them somewhat differently. What we’ve been doing as an administration team is looking at whether there would be any potential harm if we stopped doing this, and the initial answer is ‘no’ because Paly has just as high acceptance rates as we do and they have not had any weighted grades for five years now.”

During course selection, our district has to discourage students from taking too many honors and APs through time-management worksheets, contracts and individual meetings. Weighting courses will do the exact opposite. By weighting grades, the GPA scale shifts from 4.0 to 5.0, so an A in an unweighted class could lower a student’s GPA.

Assigning different values to different courses is inappropriate. Classes like sociology, biotechnology, choir, jazz and journalism deserve to be valued just as much as AP Physics and Honors Algebra. They allow students to follow their curiosity, specialize in areas of interest and pursue passions.

The school board’s decision last fall for the Class of 2017 was a giant step backward. I hope our community can now take more than two steps forward –– to maintain unweighted GPAs and continue to discuss and evaluate the culture that we create and continue to strive to improve it.

Our community is notorious for its focus on success. While aspiring to success is healthy, aspiring to a single measure is not. When we start to define what success is by assigning objective values to different experiences and life choices, we need to take a few steps back and remember that our community is special because it’s comprised of individuals. Looking at our community purely in terms of numbers –– our school rankings, our average SATs, our GPA distributions –– we are beyond successful. It’s time we catch up emotionally and socially and emphasize what can’t be measured –– who each individual Palo Altan is.

Instead of weighting GPAs, can we encourage inquiry-driven learning for the sake of learning? Can we harness the freedom that blended courses offer to grow beyond the constrictions of the AP and provide classes that are based on discussion, exploration and analytical debate? Can we celebrate passions without accolades? Can we require free time, adequate hours of sleep, time spent with friends, or reading books for pleasure?

High school shouldn’t be about manufacturing GPAs.

This is our time to explore, take risks and develop skills we didn’t know we had. We must feel free to choose courses that support the self-discovery and personal growth needed to carry us past bachelors and masters and doctorates to what matters most: the way our educations are put to use and how we shape our lives –– the friends and partners we choose, the families we create, the companies we start, the books we write, the films we make, the people we heal, the technologies we invent and the lessons we pass down to our children.

Joelle Dong is a senior at Palo Alto High School and can be contacted at joelleldong@gmail.com.

Comments

26 people like this
Posted by Midtowners
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Wow that's a good message and well written!!!

It's kinda like you had time to get really good at writing because you didn't have to chase every 5.0 weighted grade available.

Academics through undergraduate college years shouldn't be competitive. If you're chasing limited grant dollars at the graduate level, fine. But the message you hear in the opposing arguments (both from kids and parents) always includes the word "competition."

Learning is not a competition.


27 people like this
Posted by Stress Wrong Reason to Not Weigh
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 1, 2017 at 12:25 pm

(Potential) stress should be addressed at the level of class registration--counseling, meeting, self-reflection, not at the level of grade reporting. Students who are pressured to take more challenging classes should be honest with themselves, their parents, and counselors, while student show want to challenge themselves get the weighted GPAs they deserve.


73 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 1, 2017 at 3:10 pm

I can't believe that this community, is even considering changing the long held standard of unweighted GPA's at Paly.
This standard is in place for reasons that to me are so clear, that I can barely stand to listen to the agruements against
it. There is no beginning or end to how far this community will go to compete against each other. There is good reason that most of the professional educators in this community are against changing this standard.

It really goes to show you, when parents and students turn a deaf ear to this recommended practice. You see, they think that they know better...... I have listened to the pro WGPA arguments & they are truly disturbing.

[Portion removed.]


33 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2017 at 3:16 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Palo Alto - [Portion removed.] You haven't articulated an argument beyond 'long held standard' which means nothing. If you think the reasons are clear, start by clearly stating them. I'll start with the clearest counter argument. Colleges weight grades anyway, so "unweighted GPA" is just an illusion that every kid sees through. If your goal was to reduce competition and pressure to load up on AP classes, well, clearly that's a massive failure. So let's agree the pressure is a problem, and work toward REAL solutions, not putting band aids on the symptoms.


6 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 1, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Dear John,

"There is no beginning or end to how far this community will go to compete against each other."
That about sums it up, I could go into detail, but I am sure you can figure it out. Right?



11 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 1, 2017 at 3:52 pm

Thank you Joelle for your thoughful and well reasoned essay!


36 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2017 at 3:52 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Palo Alto - "There is no beginning or end to how far this community will go to compete against each other."

And hiding weighted GPA from students doesn't help deal with it, at all. As long as colleges weight AP classes in admissions, it is completely pointless not to offer up weighted GPA in the first place.


27 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2017 at 3:55 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Palo Alto - Sorry for the double post, but let me add that you could make the argument Palo Alto should drop AP classes entirely. That at least addresses the core issue. But to offer the AP classes, then pretend they don't affect GPA when everyone knows college admissions take it into account is absurd.


31 people like this
Posted by A Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 1, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Ms. Dong seems to suggest that when you don't take AP or honor courses, then you can pursue music, performing art, computer science, etc. However, she seems to forget that PALY does offer AP Music Theory, Theatre 4 honor, AP Computer Science and a new AP Computer Science Principles.

There is no conflict between what interests you want to explore and taking AP and honor courses. It is exactly because a student are interested in that subject or area, that he/she wants to take advanced courses like honors and APs to learn more!


24 people like this
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 1, 2017 at 4:38 pm

"Printed on transcripts only when a student needs a weighted GPA to apply for a merit scholarship. "

Well, it turns out that is all the time. Because for some colleges, if the wGPA isn't printed on ALL transcripts from a school, they won't accept it on any (reasoning they aren't getting the "true" reported GPA). So you can't just rely on letters, by request, figuring out the special case; it doesn't work.

[Portion removed.]


35 people like this
Posted by wGPA is the Standard
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2017 at 4:41 pm

According to PAUSD's board meeting agenda document,

the majority of Bay Area school districts report weighted GPA on transcripts,

so as most schools all over United States.

PALY is one of very few schools that do not report wGPA. If the issues that Joelle said are true, I wonder why these schools continue to do it.

In fact, several high schools in other region gone through similar arguments and discussion, and almost every one of them chose to report wGPA at the end. If you don't believe, check information at yeswGPA.org.


36 people like this
Posted by Mei
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 1, 2017 at 5:04 pm

@ Palo Alto

I have lived in Palo Alto for 26 years. Things do change overtime, and people need to adjust to accept it.

10-15 years ago, few people had a cell phone. Nowadays, can you do without your smart phone for a week?

Not long ago, most UC had admission rates from 30%-70%. Most graduates from Palo Alto at that time went to in state colleges and paid in state tuitions. Reporting wGPA or unweighted GPA was not an issue at all.

But now, UC's admission rate is so low, while overall tuition is so high. Students and families turn to out of state colleges. Over 51% PAUSD students (more than half) went to out of state colleges in 2015. Many of them need scholarships. Reporting wGPA is definitely critical to our students NOW!

Class of 2008 (n=773): in state: 73%, out of state: 26%
Class of 2009 (n=792): in state: 70%, out of state: 29%
Class of 2010 (n=773): in state: 64%, out of state: 37%
Class of 2011 (n=726): in state: 65%, out of state: 35%
Class of 2012 (n=825): in state: 58%, out of state: 42%
Class of 2013 (n=763): in state: 57%, out of state: 44%
Class of 2014 (n=812): in state: 57%, out of state: 42%
Class of 2015 (n=685): in state: 49%, out of state: 51%

(Data source: Board document: College Readiness and Success Indicators: AP, A-G, and Postsecondary Enrollment and Completion)


8 people like this
Posted by Reply to "A Paly Parent"
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2017 at 8:42 pm

I believe that Ms. Dong is suggesting that if weighted grade reporting is used, students strategizing to achieve the highest GPA will sacrifice elective courses because As in unweighted classes lower GPAs. Let's not split hairs over the few elective courses that carry weight, she is obviously addressing the fact that the majority of electives are unweighted. I believe her point is that unweighted courses are just as educationally enriching as weighted courses and deserve equal value.


25 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2017 at 10:33 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@reply - "I believe her point is that unweighted courses are just as educationally enriching as weighted courses and deserve equal value."

Then argue that weighted honors and AP classes should be dropped entirely. Let's have an honest argument about that. But what is stupid is weighting the classes, then refusing to report that fact.


33 people like this
Posted by wGPA Analyst
a resident of University South
on Feb 2, 2017 at 8:48 am

So It's really this simple and you need to be consistent. A student takes a class and gets a grade and the GPA that was assigned to it. At Paly and Gunn some classes get a 4.0 for an A and some get a 5.0. If you feel for whatever reason this creates competition (like the writer says above that "kids might compare them") then we shouldn't report EITHER number because both are subject to sharing, ranking, bragging or getting stressed about.


Take away wGPA then the only thing that changes for those few students with bad social graces is someone says "I got a 4.0 which is better than your 4.0" instead of "I got a 4.3 which is better than your 4.0"


So let's be clear if you do not want EARNED wGPA reported then you, if your are being true to your argument, shouldn't want ANY GPA reported. Short of that you are cherry picking and haven't solved the problem.


Oh and also please make sure your kids don't report their SAT/ACT scores as well as that might also lead to an unlevel playing field.


7 people like this
Posted by wGPA Analyst
a resident of University South
on Feb 2, 2017 at 8:50 am

Correction (for clarification) of the above comment. The comment above should have read:

"Take away wGPA then the only thing that changes for those few students with bad social graces is someone says "I got a 4.0 which is better than your 3.7" instead of "I got a 4.3 which is better than your 4.0"


10 people like this
Posted by Unanimous
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2017 at 10:17 am

As a student at Paly, I strongly agree with Joelle's stance on the GPA dilemma. Students should be able to explore in high school and take classes based on interest, rather than whether these classes are AP or Honors courses.
Although some parents are in support of the weighted GPA system, it stems competition which is not what this school district needs right now. When we have unweighted GPAs, we do not compare them to one another because they are composed of different incomparable elements.
If we had been raised around weighted GPAs, my peers and I would not have taken some of my favorite courses. Thank you for this article, Joelle!


18 people like this
Posted by wGPA Analyst
a resident of University South
on Feb 2, 2017 at 12:00 pm

@Unamimous The issue with this discussion is we're having two separate ones.

1. A short term issue going on with the schools and board of ed is about the "reporting" of the wGPA that was already earned. Fundamentally does a student who took a class in which she was told that she would get an extra point on their GPA actually have that reported out. I don't see how ANYONE (even you and @joelle) can disagree with that (any disagreement constitutes a version of misleading advertising, AKA fraud which I'm sure neither of you would support.

2. A longer term one that you and @Joelle are having and that is should there be courses that receive that extra grade point at all given what you see as the consequences. While a worthwhile discussion it is not relevant to the current debate going on.

By confusing the short term (reporting for already earned and promised credit) and long term issues (should that extra credit even be offered) you can lead to really unfair outcomes. Basically students who took a class expecting the extra point who never get that extra point.

If for a subsequent entering freshman classes you want to change the course catalog so no courses are offered with the extra grade point then that is one approach but itis unfair to change the model for currently enrolled students who were told they get the extra point when they made the decision to take that course (regardless of if you think that is right or wrong for that point to be rewarded).

As said above if you advertise a benefit and do not deliver it its called fraud and no one wants (including, I'm guessing, you and @joelle) nor expects, the high school course catalogs to promote that.


45 people like this
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 2, 2017 at 12:39 pm

It seems like what some people are missing is that this isn't just a discussion about how Paly and its students see their courses and GPAs, it is about how the rest of the world looks at it. And it is not about competition between students at Paly; it is about the competition between those students and every other high school student for college places and financial aid.

I can understand why students don't get this, since they aren't exposed to it until the very end of their high school years, and even then may not realize what is happening. In no real sense does a Paly student compete with the student sitting next to her - we don't report class rank and there are no forced curves (it you think otherwise, please give examples), and no prizes handed out for high GPAs. I actually think many students do understand this, and give appropriate attention to their GPAs (i.e., very little until time to apply to college).

There's a valid discussion about what courses we should give added weight to, ranging from none at all to nearly all of them. But the reality is that most colleges, for admissions and financial aid purposes, put weights on AP and honors courses, or expect the high school to do it for them. So I'd be concerned that if PAUSD diverged far from this norm, they may be misleading our students that their GPAs are higher (or lower) than what most colleges will perceive, and putting them at a disadvantage against high schools that use standard weightings.

The weighted GPA exists whether we calc and report it or not. Our students compete against other high school students whether we like and admit it or not. Denying reality takes a lot of effort - let's just roll with it and teach our kids to deal.


26 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 2, 2017 at 10:19 pm

Dear Joelle,

I applaud you for broadening your horizon and exploring different classes at Paly. That's great! But I have to disagree with your position. Ultimately having a WGPA reporting system is about FAIRNESS.

Please remember WGPA DOES NOT take anything away from your GPA if you choose not to take any honors and AP classes. A large percentage of students in both Paly and Gunn take H/AP courses. They do so to challenge themselves, not for the purpose of weighted GPA. In fact such a large number of Paly students still take honors and AP classes even though only uwGPA is reported shows that (you can check out the stats from a report on Web Link). We all know how demanding these classes are and how hard students work on them. Therefore they SHOULD BE rewarded for their hard work. Bottomline, an A in a regular class does not equal an A in an AP class.

I admit a lot of kids and parents are very concerned about school stress, particularly given our community's history. But for those kids who take H/AP, WGPA actually relieves a lot of the stress. In the long run, the right approach to counter a high stress culture is teaching our kids how to manage stress (therefore reducing them), not avoiding H/AP classes all together. It is irresponsible to create an artificial cocoon in high school and let our students deal with the real world in college (where stress and challenges are plentiful) unprepared.

Finally, it takes guts for you to buck the trend and take these exploratory classes. But it is unfair to expect other kids to do the same, and in fact penalize them if they don't - that's essentially what uwGPA-only reporting does. Please put yourself in their shoes and try to understand them. Thank you!


5 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 3, 2017 at 6:12 am

@PAUSD Parent

"They do so to challenge themselves, not for the purpose of weighted GPA."

This is the most troubling part of the WGPA argument. If the student does not care about the grade being weighted,
why are we having this discussion? It is this double speak, that makes Palo Alto so Palo Alto. And, the best reason not
to have WGPA's.


15 people like this
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 3, 2017 at 8:08 am

They take the course because they are interested. They want the wgpa because it matters to college admission and financial aid decisions. Many though not all colleges will weight the courses whether we do or not. Defying reality is hard work, better to just deal with it.


5 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 3, 2017 at 8:20 am

@A Parent

"Many though not all colleges will weight the courses whether we do or not. Defying reality is hard work, better to just deal with it."

Exactly my point. Why have this discussion. Kids take the classes they take. Colleges weight the classes how they
want. So, why change to WGPA?


Like this comment
Posted by What does the point reward
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 3, 2017 at 8:21 am

Does the point reward work and learning in the class, or the level of education reached in the subject before the class begins?


21 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 3, 2017 at 8:30 am

@Palo Alto a resident of Downtown North, No one in their right mind (at least the kids I know) take honors or AP for the 5 points. Those classes have two to three times amount of homework, and they are extremely difficult. In fact, some students I know get A+ in regular classes and get B+ in H/AP! Students take it become they are interested in the subject and want to challenge themselves. YES these challenges make them look good to college admissions - it is common knowledge that colleges prefer students who have demonstrated academic rigor, particularly in STEM! Since when do we discourage our children to thrive for something better?


20 people like this
Posted by challenge all assumptions
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:26 am

Ms. Dong,

I admire your courage speaking out on something you obviously care a lot about.

I don't know where your facts come from but you may want to verify some of them and see if what you uncover changes your opinion.

First, you may not know this but each summer Paly weights rising seniors' GPAs and sends them in one big batch to the CA public universities. So the issue is not whether Paly should weight GPAs or not. It is whether the weighted GPA that Paly already shares with colleges should show up on students' transcripts too.

You say no, in part because students will unofficially rank themselves when Paly hands transcripts out in class. Gunn doesn't hand them out and IMHO Paly shouldn't either.

Second, you feel that seeing that number makes students choose classes that are not as good for them. I am pretty sure that none of the classes that our high schools offer are bad for students.

Some have more homework than others but that does not always fall on weighted (more) and unweighted (less) lines. Gunn offers APs that have no homework and some unweighted classes that have lots. Paly probably does too.

On content, you value unweighted Biotech over weighted classes. Your preference is completely valid for you. But the next Al Gore and Steve Jobs in Paly's Class of 2017 will fiercely debate you on whether Biotech is more fascinating, life-altering, and important than Environmental Science and Computer Science, both which happen to be weighted.

Finally, the enrollment info posted on the PAUSD website may surprise you.

Look at the Psychology electives at Paly. Psychology: one section, 20 students enrolled; not very popular and unweighted. AP Psychology: 8 sections, 224 students; immensely popular and weighted.

Unweighted Biotech (the class you like). Gunn has enough student interest to fill 3 sections of it. Paly only 1.

Test out Music. Gunn's choir and orchestra programs are extremely popular AND unweighted.

Theater? Also quite popular at Gunn AND unweighted.

Robotics. So popular that there is a waiting list and unweighted.

Who knows? Maybe you'll discover that Gunn students take the same number of unweighted electives as Paly students do. Maybe they take more.


3 people like this
Posted by Members
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:37 am

When numbers define a student and only academic intelligence in the STEM or AP are rewarded, we are turning out products not human beings. Our children are not stock options and colleges are not boards for them to answer to. Our children know our expectations and values from birth and if we let schools say an A in one course is worth more than another and that worthy work is defined only by the hours of homework and facts accumulated, we raise them to be mules in a society which defines putting one hoof in front of the other to turn the grindstone (to borrow from Flaubert) in the name of what other schools are doing.

Adults who thrive know themselves and know when to stand up to societal pressure to build worlds where everyone is valued for what they can contribute and equal effort equally respected when contributing to the end goals.

No weighted GPA's promotes self-knowledge through experience other than AP's and honors courses


30 people like this
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 3, 2017 at 11:00 am

"Exactly my point. Why have this discussion. Kids take the classes they take. Colleges weight the classes how they want. So, why change to WGPA?"

Two reasons:
1- not all the colleges do the weighting, particularly for financial aid purposes. This debate all started over the Univ of Oregon insisting they would use whatever was on the transcript for their merit scholarship determination.

2- we give a false reading to the kids on where they stand for college admissions if we don't provide some wGPA to them. You can tell them to do it themselves, or give them the UC/CSU version only (not cumulative, unrelated to what other colleges do), but frankly that just hurts the kids paying less attention or with less time and experience. Just give them the number and then they have the same info the colleges look at.

GPA in general has no real purpose except for college admissions (and possibly job application?) purposes. So we might as well provide the numbers that approximates what the colleges use.


21 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2017 at 11:44 am

Since they already virtue signal a weighted GPA with the Social Justice Pathway (SJP), I am not sure why Paly would be against it.

The selective progressive schools give extra brownie points for this exclusive but inclusive program. They appreciate that it produces another generation of social justice warriors with extensive experience making signs and standing on the ECR & Embarcadero intersection.

Maybe it is time they recognize others for academics who have actually earned it.


20 people like this
Posted by challenge all assumptions
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 3, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Ms. Dong,

Another thought.

Would your opposition to reporting weighted GPAs change if your suggestion -- have weighted GPAs "printed on transcripts only when a student needs a weighted GPA to apply for a merit scholarship" --- doesn't work?

While you are fact checking the other things, also try reaching out to college financial aid officers and see if they need to see weighted GPAs for all students applying from a high school before they can consider it for one of them. Start with University of Oregon and, if you have time, call a few others that offer merit scholarships and don't recalculate GPAs, like Miami Ohio and Indiana in Bloomington, and see what they say.

Someone from Paly mentioned that this is the case, which I assume is why the school board, in a 5-0 vote, told both high schools to automatically place weighted GPAs on ALL the transcripts that both schools sent out last Fall.


17 people like this
Posted by To Be Fair
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 3, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Dear Joelle

Just because "Superintendent Max McGee, Paly Principal Kim Diorio, Gunn Principal Denise Herrmann, the school guidance departments and tenured Paly teachers are all against weighted grade point averages." doesn't necessary mean that unweighted GPA is FAIR. [Portion removed.]


I didn't have a clear position until I started finding out more about the advantages on both sides. Numbers and Facts do not lie. Students, teachers and parents should be provided with objective factual information. Amongst other reliable sources, take a look at a consolidation site at Web Link


To the questions "Can we celebrate passions without accolades? Can we require free time, adequate hours of sleep, time spent with friends, or reading books for pleasure?

High school shouldn’t be about manufacturing GPAs.",

would the school consider taking away trophies for sports and take away any recognition of athletes? Shouldn't athletes play fewer games so that they could free up time from competitive sports to spend more time with friends or read a book for pleasure? Is high school about manufacturing athletes??

Let's be FAIR and either celebrate both or none.


7 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 3, 2017 at 3:09 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Cynic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2017 at 3:47 pm

No matter what is decided, some will try to play it, some will benefit, some will lose. However, it is very small category and no one knows where they will fall in it. I don't think it matters much whatever way they go. Note, kids already know what are the easy APs, hard non-APs, easy teachers/hard teachers, etc. Some play it, some don't.


11 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2017 at 4:36 pm

We are missing the obvious. There should be three types of reported GPAs and then we will not need to argue about this anymore.

1. Unweighted GPA or just plain GPA
2. Weighted GPA or wGPA
3. Participation GPA or pGPA

pGPA is where everybody gets a 5.0 and 100% attendance just for participating. We already do it for everything else with our kids so why not academics?

In Cultural Marxism, the goal is to replace wages with grades. It helps reinforce Ivy League credentials as the gatekeepers to the desired redistribution of wealth.


11 people like this
Posted by Been There
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 3, 2017 at 8:50 pm

Everyone knows (or should know) that colleges want to see at least a few AP courses on the transcript. AP courses require at least 40-65+minutes more per class and they are difficult classes. Taking an AP class at Paly is not the same as taking an AP class in other school districts in the nation. These students should get the reward of it being reflected on their transcripts for all their hard work.

The root of all the stress is the students thinking they need to load up on so many AP classes, such as 7-10 AP classes (there just isn't enough time in the day!). In reality, do they need so many AP classes for the top elite schools when they have the reputation of Paly?

PAUSD should pull their Naviance data for such info. I know Paly students who have been accepted into Ivy Leagues or elite schools with 4 AP classes on their transcripts. Do students really need to load up on AP classes when Paly is already so rigorous? Perhaps students across the nation can load up because their academics are easier than Paly. If Paly could answer this question, this would offload stress for our students.

I heard that Diorio wants to end AP classes altogether, which is misinformed because the regular lane students will be squashed by the AP students. The regular lane students will not be able to compete with them and will have no chance for As.


3 people like this
Posted by RewardTheLucky
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2017 at 7:51 am

It is well known that teacher quality is a total crap shoot in this district. I have seen more than a few cases where a hopelessly incompetent teacher forced their students to drop down a lane.

I've seen multiple kids encounter this with math, science. Some of these kids are brilliant, like scary smart, but just end up with the short straw for a teacher. ( a bully, incompetent, cannot speak intelligibly, one lit a kid on fire, seriously- we have some teacher quality problems).

Meanwhile, the class next door gets a great teacher.

What the weighted grade does is doubly punish students for bad teaching : first they are deprived of the higher level class, AND they are punished with lower GPA.

This magnified the destruction and havoc wreaked by incompetent teachers.

There should be NO weighted GPA until the school gives all students a fair shot. A quality teacher.

We need dismissal reform before wGPA reforms.

...also, this avoids the stress issue of wGPA, as learning with a quality teacher is low stress.


8 people like this
Posted by challenge all assumptions
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 4, 2017 at 10:57 am

Been There,

One way to look at the "way to report GPAs" question is the impact weighted GPAs can have on students at high school.

Some on Paly's staff are down on APs and honors courses and, by extension, down on giving students an extra GPA point as an incentive to take them, arguing that weighting GPAs will add to student stress.

Gunn students told the school board the opposite. Weighted GPAs allow them to take an advanced class they are interested in and alleviate stress because it gives them room to get a lower grade without a hit to their GPA that limits scholarship opportunities, etc.

Challenging yourself academically is a core PAUSD value. (PAUSD Strategic Plan). More Gunn students do that with almost 80% of Gunn students taking at least 1 AP compared to 70% at Paly who do. (School Profiles). PAUSD is working to get those numbers up, especially for low income and minority students. (LCAP Plan)

So who is right on the stress question - Paly admins or Gunn students?

The Gunn students who said that weighting GPAs won't hurt and could help Paly students.

[Portion removed due to inaccurate factual assertions.]

Not sure what explains the homework difference (fewer blended classes? nicer teachers?) but the rest of this makes sense.

Almost all our seniors want to continue their studies at a 4 year college. [Portion removed due to inaccurate factual assertions.]

This is probably why over 80% of California's top high schools and 74% of high schools across America weight GPAs, up from the 66% that did a decade ago when a "yes" from the college you wanted to attend was much easier to get. (Niche CA's Top Public High Schools and NACAC's 2013 survey).


4 people like this
Posted by challenge all assumptions
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 5, 2017 at 7:07 am

On Advanced Classes and Stress: Challenge Success' paper says "our research shows that stress levels in students are not necessarily correlated to the number of AP classes they take." Web Link. Reported in the Palo Alto Weekly's article "Do AP classes live up to their promise?" Web Link

[Portion removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by challenge all assumptions
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 5, 2017 at 7:21 am

Gunn which weights GPAs Web Link
Paly which did not Web Link

1. Fewer Gunn Students are "Doing School" and More are "Fully Engaged"

Just "Doing School" (often or always work hard but don't find it very interesting, fun, or valuable)

--- Gunn - 31%
--- Paly - 41%

"Fully Engaged"

--- Gunn - 22%
--- Paly - 18%

At both PAUSD high schools, under 10% report that they are NOT engaged at all.

According to Challenge Success researchers, in the US "40 to 60 percent of high school students are chronically disengaged ...inattentive, exert little effort, do not complete tasks, and claim to be bored" citing the National Research Council.

2. Paly Students Have More Homework

---Gunn - 16.81 hours/week average --- weekdays (2.83 hours, grades averaged) and weekends (2.66 hours)
---Paly - 18.27 hours week average --- weekdays (3.01 hours) and weekends (3.22 hours)

3. Paly Students are More Stressed By School

---Gunn - 63%
---Paly - 69%


9 people like this
Posted by challenge all assumptions
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 5, 2017 at 7:52 am

What colleges admissions offices consider, in order, with link:

"The top factors in the admission decision for the Fall 2015 admission cycle were: grades in college preparatory courses (79% of colleges place "considerable importance" on this), strength of curriculum (60%), overall high school GPA (60%), and admission test scores (56%).

Among the next most important factors were the essay, a student’s demonstrated interest, counselor and teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities, and class rank."

National Association for College Admission Counseling’s survey. Web Link and Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by challenge all assumptions
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 5, 2017 at 7:57 am

What these colleges consider for out-of-state applicant merit scholarships:

University of Oregon (up to $36,000): Web Link

Boulder: Web Link

Alabama (full ride): Web Link


Posted by challenge all assumptions
a resident of Gunn High School

on Feb 5, 2017 at 11:41 am


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