The Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education plans to vote on April 18 to either approve or reject Superintendent Max McGee’s recommendation for updating the district’s GPA reporting policy.
The new proposal would require both district high schools report cumulative weighted and cumulative unweighted GPAs on all student transcripts beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, according to McGee. The weighting process says that the UC-designated honors and AP classes would receive a weight; freshman grades are not included.
The recommendation comes after a months-long process of dialogue between district administrators, teachers, parents, and students. To obtain community input on the GPA decision, McGee held three parent forums, two student forums, a webinar and meetings with faculty groups. Additionally, a survey sent out to students, parents and teachers garnered over 2500 responses, according to McGee.
“It [the proposed policy] will benefit students in that some students will be able to get merit scholarships, and some will get scholarships at a higher level than in the past,” McGee told Verde.
He also said reporting weighted GPAs will encourage students to challenge themselves by taking more rigorous courses without fear of damaging their grades.
“I think some students fear taking honors and AP [classes] because they think … they’re not capable. They doubt themselves,” McGee said. “And in that case, this [new policy] is a nice safety net, and it’s a nice incentive. … I hope, frankly, it does get some students into honors and AP classes that wouldn’t have otherwise taken them.”
Despite the beneficial changes that McGee anticipates under the new policy, he acknowledges that reporting weighted GPAs has some potential downsides as well.
“I have no doubt it will add to the competitive nature of the schools,” McGee said. Furthermore, McGee thinks that the decision may cause students to “alter [their] course-taking patterns so more students are taking AP and honors [classes] just to weight their grades, and less for learning.”
This concern is especially crucial to the schools’ electives offerings, most of which would not receive a weight. As a response to a potential decrease in elective enrollments, he says that students will be encouraged to take no more than six to eight AP classes over their high school years, to save time for different classes and interests.
Correction: April 20, 2017
The original version of this article misstated the year in which the new GPA policy will take effect. It will be implemented during the 2017-2018 school year, not the 2018-2019 school year.