Weighted GPAs coming to CFHS

By: Jason Rathjen

When the morning bell rings on the first day of the 2016-2017 school year, some students will be under a brand new grading policy. The school will be implementing a weighted GPA system for those students taking AP classes.

The new GPA will utilize a 5-point scale, with an A equaling a 5.0, a B equalling a 4.0 and so on. This this will apply to only AP classes. Students will still operate on a 4.0 scale, with the 5.0 weighting being factored into that 4.0 scale. It would then be possible for a student to have above a 4.0 GPA. Administrators believe that this is something that the students who are willing to challenge themselves deserve. “Our AP courses are recognized as our most time-demanding coursework in our school, and we wanted to recognize that with an additional weighting,” Principal Jason Wedgbury said.

For those students taking honors or Hawkeye concurrent courses, the GPA weighting will not apply. “There were too many challenges and variables to include the honors and Hawkeye classes,” Wedgbury said. “We don’t feel like we can implement a fair system.”

According to Wedgbury, honors classes can vary widely in the level of coursework that is given from class to class, which posed complications in how to design the system. The honors courses are more of a way to prepare for an AP class.

Among the many reasons that administrators used in deciding to implementing this system was to encourage students to challenge themselves and in turn be better prepared for college. “We didn’t do this for college admittance,” Wedgbury said. “We wanted to encourage more challenging coursework because college preparation and career readiness is the most important thing we can give you.”

Many students have heard the news and are excited that the system will be implemented. “I am glad that CF is incorporating them at least soon. As a student that challenges myself through more difficult classes, I do believe that it’s harder to maintain an outstanding GPA,” senior Andrew Nurse said. “Also, with this day and age, grades matter to a lot of people and cause a lot of stress on some, so the weighted GPA being implemented would reduce this quite a bit,” Nurse said.

Weighted GPAs are being seen as a way to give students a security blanket so that they can see what their potential truly is. “I think they (weighted GPAs) are very necessary for students who want to test their knowledge capabilities in harder classes without having to over stress themselves with worrying about maintaining their GPA for scholarships and gaining admission into more prestigious colleges,” senior Caleb Schreiber said.

One point of the system that some student may not like is that the weighting will not be retroactive. The new system will not apply to outgoing seniors or to AP classes taken prior to the new system being implemented. “I think it’s unfair to the seniors about implementing them next year when they could’ve easily put them in this year,” Nurse said.

Another reason that administration decided to implement the new system is the fact that the high school no longer has class rank. “Without class rank, we can add weighting without creating dissension,” Wedgbury said. One problem with weighted grade systems around the country is that some states and colleges still have class rank systems in place. Students taking more challenging classes are ranked higher just because of those classes. Students who take grade level classes are left behind because they don’t get the weighting.

Along with the grade point benefits and the encouragement to take more challenging courses, students are also able to boost their RAI scores, which are used both to determine admission to state universities in Iowa, and also for scholarship qualification. The RAI score takes into account a student’s GPA, which, with the new system, should be increased, thereby increasing the RAI results. If a student achieves a RAI score of 245, he or she is automatically admitted into any of the state universities, which include UNI, Iowa State and Iowa.

The administration believes that an increased challenge and learning will also have a positive impact on ACT scores, which is also a component to the RAI score. “We have been consistent with our message that there is a balance between academic challenge and a GPA,” Wedgbury said.

The problem that the administration is having is that they have not cracked into the culture that the GPA is the be-all and end-all for students. With the new GPA system, the administration hopes to lure students away from taking the lesser challenge, purely to maintain their GPAs. “This is just one of the ways we can encourage academic growth in students during their three years at Cedar Falls High School,” Wedgbury said.

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