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?

Answers from the president of the College Board Part II

I am  greatly entertained with many of the comments on The Choice’s – Guidance Office series of Questions and Answers with Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board.

It is clear that there are many who have an axe to grind with the College Board.  I guess this makes sense as the College Board is deeply intertwined with the college application process.  An activity that  causes many people great a deal of angst.  Shattered expectations need a scape goat, and the College Board is as likely target as any.

The College Board certainly has their faults and as we all do, but it is evident that series like this give the upset a soapbox.  You can follow the discussion at The Choice, or bet yet get involved.

Mr. Caperton is answering questions all week, so if you have something you would like him to respond post it here. Even the questions are interesting to read as the majority are not really questions but complaints dressed as questions.

Answers from the President of the College Board

This week the New York Times, The Choice,  feature “The Guidance Office” is hosting an Q&A with Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, the non-profit that brings us the Advanced Placement, PSAT and SAT exams.

For Monday, Gaston answered two questions about the Advanced Placement Program. The questions were:

    1. What is the College Board doing to increase access to college among minority and low income students? Part of the diversity problem in America is that too many bright students from disadvantaged backgrounds are being excluded from higher education and something needs to be done.
    2. As I prepare my students for the AP Exam in English Literature and Composition, I am struck by the absence of reflection in the AP testing process. My students have already undertaken some seriously difficult work, from Stanley Fish to John Donne, and amaze me with their insight and enthusiasm for the material. But this insight and this enthusiasm comes only after a period of reflection when the literature has time to deepen, broaden, connect, and empathize.  I’m wondering if I should not be teaching a more speed-conscious technique, though I’m not sure that leaving the skill of reflection out of the study of literature is at all a good idea.

You can check out Mr. Caperton’s responses to these questions at The Choice.  He will be responding to various questions all week.  If you have a question for Mr. Caperton, you can ask it by posting a comment here.

Congratulations John Crocker – Milken National Educator Award for KY

I would like to congratulate John Crocker an English teacher at Ballard High School in Louisville, KY.  John won the Milken National Educator Award for Kentucky.  John teachers AP English at Ballard High School, a client of  Total Registration’s AP Exam Registration Service.  Here is some information about the Award:

The Milken Educator Awards were established by Milken Family Foundation Chairman Lowell Milken to provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary teachers, principals and specialists who are furthering excellence in education.

The Awards alternate each year between elementary and secondary educators; its recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. The 2008 Awards notifications reached an audience of 175 million people with more than 1,100 stories – including 60 front page articles – and over 28,000 YouTube views.

from the Milken Family Foundation

John has clearly done a great job teaching his students and isnn09_ballard_crocker_0025982 very committed to their learning.  Here are the criteria used in choosing award recipients:

The criteria for the selection of outstanding elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and other education professionals as Milken Educators include the following:

  •  Exceptional educational talent as evidenced by effective instructional practices and student learning results in the classroom and school;
  • Exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom that provide models of excellence for the profession;
  • Individuals whose contributions to education are largely unheralded yet worthy of the spotlight;
  • Early- to mid-career educators who offer strong long-range potential for professional and policy leadership; and
  • Engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students, colleagues and the community.

Ask Gaston Caperton, President of the College Board, a question

The “Guidance Office”, a feature of the “New York Times”, is taking questions for Mr. Caperton to answer during next weeks series.

This week in the Guidance Office, The Choice is seeking reader questions for Gaston Caperton, who has been president of the College Board since 1999. The board is the nonprofit association of 5,000 schools and universities that is best known for its overseeing of the SAT and Advanced Placement programs.

Mr. Caperton, a two-term governor of West Virginia from 1989 to 1997, has influenced seemingly every hot-button issue in the educational admissions process for the last decade — especially the battle over the role of the SAT.

To submit a question, use the comment box below. Mr. Caperton’s first answers to select reader questions will appear on Monday and continue throughout the week.

Meanwhile, The Choice plans to provide coverage of the board’s three-day national forum, an annual meeting that this year begins Oct. 21 in New York City.

You can submit your question by posting a comment at the New York Times site.