Weighted Grades – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

It seems that there are a large number of articles lately about schools/districts re-evaluating weighted grades and class rank (usually because of weighted).

Report Card

Weighted grades came about as a way to reward students for attempting more challenging classes.  Without weighted grades, some students would not attempt the challenge of AP or IB classes for fear that a B would tarnish their perfect 4.0.  In order to remove this fear, weighted grades were invented.  This way students could take a challenging class and if they did not do as well as they might in an easier class there was not as much damage to their GPA.  At first glance, it seems like a good idea.

But then there are the “grade grubbers”.  Every teacher knows at least one.  Students who can’t look past the GPA.  Everything is about the grade and learning becomes a secondary or tertiary concern.  Unfortunately, this mentality is not reserved for students, but also grabs hold of parents.  While I was teaching I had students who would not take an interesting elective, because it was not weighted.  These students did not have a fear of not achieving an A, but knew that an A in a non-weighted class would lower their GPA that was above a 4.0.  So much for well rounded students, no more art, music, PE, etc for the high achieving.  I even had a student that opted for a study hall instead of a “regular” class so that their precious GPA would not be affected because not receiving a grade was better than getting “just” a 4.0 in a class.  This is clearly not the intent of wighted grades, but is what it has become.

Many schools are getting rid of class rank as it is typically determined by GPA.  Getting rid of class rank also gets rid of Valedictorians and Salutatorians.  All of this can be directly attributed to these weighted GPAs.  And what about the common practice of colleges immediately unweighting GPAs to compare students.  Evidently, many see the weighted grades as problematic.

In a recent article in the Washington Post,  there is an example of Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County proposing to remove weighted grades so that students might be more inclined to pursue challenging classes that do not carry the enviable label of AP or IB.  One of the comments in the discussion points out that there are students who take Calculus classes that are beyond AP classes, i.e. Multi-variable Calculus or Differential Equations, that are not weighted as they are not AP but require AP classes as prerequisites. 

So chime in, share your thoughts on weighted GPAs.  Are their any solutions?

3 Responses to “Weighted Grades – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”

  1. […] soon as the “ink” dried on my last post, Weighted Grades – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,  I read an article about how the University of Michigan is going stop re-calculating GPAs.  […]

  2. Jim Monuszko says:

    Does anyone have a comment about Honors classes being weighted the same as AP?

  3. Joel Knepper says:

    I am a high school student and completely agree with this article. I feel the stress of taking AP classes in an effort to be the valedictorian of my class. I am in IB so well rounded-ness is not a concern, but I find myself regretting taking classes that were interesting for fear that I might be surpassed by someone else in my class.