Weighted GPA would take load off AP and Honors students’ minds


Adam Schoelz

Art by Yasmeen El-Jayyousi
Gravitational forces in history have had a mixed reception. Though they have kept us all from flinging into space, they have also led to numerous deaths by drowning, falling, dropping off rocks and, indirectly, obesity.
Idiomatic expressions, however, have had a wonderful and varied time playing with weight and gravity in the fashion we as humans cannot, at least until we learn to manipulate the gravitron. To “carry one’s own weight,” is to track one’s own progress and do one’s own work and is generally considered a positive in the field of labor, whether mental or physical. Some carry more than their own weight. They seek extra challenge, credit and collegiate experience and invariably end up doing great things.
They are called astronauts.
In school, they are called Advanced Placement students, and for some silly reason, we punish them for it. I am enrolled in several AP classes. I like them. The teachers are great, the coursework is engaging and topical and the classmates! Oh, the classmates! What discussion, what attitude, what research! But I digress.
AP classes are harder than regular and honors classes. That’s the entire point. Take a harder class; get some college credit if you can pay for it and pass the test. But the other point of AP classes was to be the hardest curve, the biggest workload — the best challenge. It’s a great environment for some of the top students in RBHS to work together, no doubt, and a mind without challenge grows fat and lazy.
But the system rewards those who challenge themselves as little as possible. As an AP class is harder than an honors class — a hard call to make objectively but still I think a relatively accepted one, when Honors World has roughly five essays over the year compared to AP World’s 30. It follows that getting an A in an AP class is harder than in an honors class, as well it should be.
However, the way that collegiate acceptance works nowadays is if you want either an academic scholarship or admittance to an Ivy League (TM) institution, you need at least a 3.8, bar none. There are so many smart kids, so many 34 ACTs and 2260 SATs, so many kids with heavy course loads and writing awards and high school internships that colleges have to draw the line somewhere, and somewhere happens to be between a 3.6 and a 3.8 GPA in most cases.
Applying to colleges and universities is a stressful experience, and knowing that skewed statistics wind up on their resumes only compounds the experience.
So a savvy student must ask himself: how much do I want to learn? Is it worth it to take an AP class if it means I may take a hit to my GPA?
This is an awful question. Isn’t schooling supposed to be about learning at its core? Social learning, time management learning and traditional learning — math and history and science and art and English and literature. Letter grades, however, have surpassed true education in importance totally. Letter grades are, at heart, arbitrary, depending on teacher, class and point-in-time assessments of knowledge, an imperfect measurement of understanding — any testing system can be fudged, and many students make an art of it.
As a school and as a college town community, we should try and take some of the pressure off of students while maintaining the importance of true learning. We should move to a weighted grading scale, where an A in an AP class would be worth a five and in a non-AP class it would be worth a four. It could even be calculated on a case by case basis — nationwide, some school districts allow pupils to choose whether or not to weight their GPA.
Students who challenge themselves academically should be worried about learning first, grades second. We must open up conversations with the school board, stop grubbing for letter grades and start demanding the necessary shift to a weighted grading system.
By Adam Schoelz