Staff Editorial: Weighted Grades just might weigh students down

[dropcap color=”#b8d4e6″ bgcolor=”#” sradius=”0″]T[/dropcap]he typical, high-achieving, American student has tunnel vision when it comes to his or her grade point average.
For something as simple as a single letter, grades have the power to bring a student to tears, earn them money from their parents and cause them to stay up until 5 a.m. to finish an assignment they find boring.
Students, parents and the school alike, because of all the focus on GPAs, call the method of grade calculation into question. The philosophical debate of whether GPAs should be weighted and unweighted is an enduring one that has recently shown up at the doorsteps of CPS.
Our system calculates GPAs without weighting. With a weighted grade system, advanced classes assign extra points to encourage students to take more challenging classes and prevent penalization if a student in a more rigorous course receives a B or C.
At first glance, this method sounds reasonable, maybe even brilliant. But under more thorough analysis, weighted grades prove to be more of a monster than the beast they are trying to correct.
Advanced Placement, or AP, classes award college credit to motivated students who earn passing grades in college level classes.
A certain type of high school student will succeed in a class like this: a student who is mature, intellectually-inclined, thirsting for challenge or simply has the willpower required to “get the grade” and earn the credit.
But not every high school student matches this description; in fact, most do not. Not to say that students who are not advanced from their years are lesser in any way; they just simply are not fit for an AP class. To give students who are ready for this rigor extra points would be unfair to students who aren’t ready.
Weighted grades could “push” students to take an AP class they are not ready for, and they may find themselves drowning in a class that moves too fast and offers too little help.
People expect AP students to sink or swim on their own, meaning unprepared students may feel unintelligent and receive an even worse grade than if they would have stuck to their skill level.
Not to mention that adding students into AP classes who do not belong alters the environment and values of an AP classroom. These students expect to receive challenges in their class, but if teachers move at a slower speed for students who need more direction, the entire point of AP classes is compromised.
More importantly, how would students with special needs or learning disorders fare under a weighted grading system?
These students have handicaps that keep them out of AP classrooms. Is it fair to them that they cannot possibly achieve the same GPA of a student who is free of handicaps?
Grades should reflect how hard a student worked within their ability. More advanced students should use their gift by taking harder classes; they need no praise for merely living up to their potential.
A student who is still developing should take regular and honors courses that challenge them. They should still be able to reach the same GPA of a student who is genetically predisposed to thrive in a tougher learning environment. [one_third][/one_third][one_half][/one_half][one_half_last][/one_half_last][one_half][/one_half]Promotions or punishments for skill-level, which are largely out of a student’s control, are inappropriate.
While discussions about weighted grades are still in an early stage, do not get excited about the possibility of a 5.0 GPA. Instead, consider the long-term effects on all types of students with all different ability levels. In 10 years that 4.5 will not mean anything.
art by Erin Barchet