Weighted grades causing controversy across country

By Katy Shult 2007

Students and teachers will continue to struggle with the battle of grading. Consistency between teachers and classes has always differed and will continue into the future. One suggested solution to this potential problem is implementing a weighted grading system.

Weighted grades are grades adjusted by the addition of a statistical value. The debate is surrounded by the idea that some students take easier courses and therefore excel, while the students that challenge themselves and take harder classes in terms of grade point average may receive a lower GPA.

It is no secret that taking challenging classes could ultimately affect students’ grades. Although they are learning just as much, the concepts in AP classes, for instance, are much harder to grasp. This could be part of the explanation for why enrollment in AP classes tends to be lower.

To compensate for this tradeoff in GPA risk, some students advocate weighting some courses more than others.

“It would reflect the difficulty of the course, but it doesn’t reflect the difficulty level for the person,” senior Libby Schmadeke said in support of weighted grading.

In some schools, “weighting” a grade adds to the grade point value earned. Students earning an A, B or C in a weighted class would receive an extra grade point. So, a student who gets an A in a class under a 4-point grading scale would receive a 5.0, if weighted. In this system, the grades on a student’s report card will not change, just the value of their grade point average. This will ultimately reflect on the student’s rank in class. Schools rank the students in a grade by their GPA’s. Additional points for taking the harder weighted classes would then add to the students’ GPA, moving them up in class rank.

By weighting classes, students would have the opportunity to take more rigorous courses. With the classes being more precise and formalized, it offers the students the chance to challenge their ability to tackle difficult concepts. The idea of taking rigorous classes fits in with one part of the CFHS push for the Three R’s: rigor, relevance and relationships.

Furthermore, in weighting classes, students are more competitive with other schools with weighted grading for elite college acceptance. Since the students’ GPA’s being increased to reflect their class choices, these students are likely to have a better chance to get accepted into elite colleges and receive more scholarships. Which, in the end could increase students’ self esteem and help them do better in college and their particular career path in the future.

On the other side of the debate, implementing weighted grades could cause a decrease in those classes that are not weighted. Potentially, students will realize that a lower grade in a weighted class will be equivalent to that of a higher grade in a non-weighted class. Elective classes such as music and performing arts, which would not be weighted, may suffer in enrollment.

The addition of points for students taking weighted classes may seem unfair to other students, as they may work just as hard in non-weighted classes and earn the same grade, but because they took what the school thinks are more difficult classes, they get bumped down in class rank. Many people do not feel this is fair for everyone, considering all students have the power of choice to take the classes they choose.

Another disadvantage in weighting classes is the inconsistency among schools as to which classes will receive weighting and by what increment to weight the classes. Because not all courses, such as honor and AP courses, are equally demanding from school to school, students at different schools may have an easier class for more weight.

Students enrolling in AP classes know that the class is going to be much harder than the non-AP class, therefore they should be ready to work harder for the same grade. When they do not have as high of a GPA for getting a lower grade, they have no room to complain; it was their choice to take that class. This may lead some students to feel that because they are not taking weighted classes, their “regular” classes are not as important, lowering their self esteem and academic work ethic.

“It seems like weighted grading creates grades that are more heavy at the top,” John Mullan, social studies teacher, said against weighted grading. “Students already get the opportunity to prepare for college, and giving them heavier grades for this just seems like overkill.”

Some students may resort to taking less rigorous classes to get higher grades, because they are afraid of getting a lower grade in a more rigorous class. This can have an effect when applying to colleges, because tracking students could become more common. The admission departments of colleges look more at overall GPA and not which classes are weighted. It is a lot easier for them to sort through college applicants by looking solely at GPA. It takes more time to look at the courses, find out whether or not they are weighted and decide if the student is accepted.

“Although being in an AP class, I don’t think that it is fair for the school to decide which classes are more ‘important’ and should be weighted. It could end up badly, with many people being upset,” senior Mike Thuesen said about weighted grading.

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