The Weighted Grades Issue

If weighted grades are implemented at Ashland High School, an A in an AP class will no longer effect GPAs in the same way as an A in Art.

At a school like Ashland High, it’s not uncommon to hear students talk about their goal of maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Not just one valedictorian, but several, have become the norm come graduation. However, what happens when school administrators throw a 5.0 into the mix?

Recently, the possibility of AHS adopting a weighted grading system has been under serious discussion. This system involves awarding extra points for grades earned in AP, honors and academically rigorous classes.

“[AHS] wants to acknowledge students who challenge themselves by taking college-level classes,” Principle Michelle Zundel said. At a school with unweighted grading like AHS, an A has the same effect on your GPA whether you earned it in art class or AP Literature. This system tends to create straight-A students who shy away from classes which might dent their GPA. Weighted grades provide a way to acknowledge those students who push themselves academically, even if they receive a lower grade.

One reason for the switch to weighted grades is the College Board‘s recent announcement that 70% of US high schools which offer AP courses weight their more rigorous classes. AHS was also prompted by the October visit of an admissions officer from University of Oregon. The officer talked of omitting their automatic admission of students with 3.4 GPAs or higher. Not only that, but they announced that they do not consider whether schools weight grades or not when looking at GPAs. In other words, a student with a 4.5 GPA at a school with weighted grades could be considered over you and your 4.0 GPA.

Another issue with unweighted grades is class rank. This is a large factor in the college admissions process. Lately AHS’s 4.0 valedictorians have been students who opt out of harder classes in order to protect their GPAs. Therefore, students taking AP classes with lower GPAs are judged on their lower class rank. School administrators have been considering whether this is fair.

Despite the heavy consideration of this system, AHS is still a long way from changing its grading policy. When asked about when the school would adopt the system, Zundel said “At this point I’m not sure about the question ‘should we have weighted grades.’”

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