Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Course Weight Discussion In Progress - Feedback Welcome

Our Student Council, shown during their meeting yesterday, is providing tremendous feedback to help BHS move forward.

Thanks to the active leadership of our students, we are moving forward with a change to our course weight formulas.  The discussion about course weights has been ongoing for a couple of years, but this year thanks to the efforts of our School Council representative to the School Committee, Walter Kikuchi, we are making some headway.  Walter has brought forward a concern from students that the current weight given to an Advanced Placement course is the same as the weight given to an Honors course (Table 1).  There is widespread agreement among staff and students that this should be adjusted.

However, the bigger discussion that has come out of this is the question as to whether or not College Prep 1 and College Prep 2 classes should be weighted differently. The main issue is the fact that many College Prep 2 classes are inclusion classes with some students who are on IEP's.   Is it fair and equitable to offer a lower weight to these students?  It was also pointed out during the discussion that our elective offerings fall within the College Prep 1 level and therefore students in College Prep 2 classes in core areas would actually get more weight for elective courses than their core courses.

Finally, you will notice that the proposed change would put us on a 5.0 scale rather than a 4.0 scale.  Our Support Services Coordinator Mr. Attubato explained that this is similar to how state colleges weight courses, adding .5 for an honors course and a full 1.0 for an AP course.

Please look over the proposals below and provide feedback in the comment section of the blog.  We will share it with the School Committee when we go to the next meeting on January 11.



Current Grading and Weighting at BHS


Proposal 1



Proposal 2


29 comments:

  1. Personally, I prefer the second proposal, since my college prep 1 courses are slightly more rigorous than my college prep 2 courses.

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  2. I disagree with this proposal for a few reasons. First of all prestigious
    colleges do not want to see kids gpa's on a 5.0 scale they look at a 4.0 scale.
    Secondly weighing an AP a as a 5 and a Honors A as a 4.5 is simply not fair
    because underclassmen are not allowed to take AP classes. Therefore, students
    would never be able to achieve a perfect gpa like on the 4.0 scale. Also, the
    gpa will be lowered significantly for kids in honors who have an A to an AP
    student who has an A.Lastly AP classes should not be weighted more because
    students are getting college credit which is the main purpose of them. As
    college admissions become harder every year I strongly suggest that you keep it
    as a 4.0 especially
    for the kids who are aiming for ivy or prestigious school where their gpa is
    their biggest concern. I fear this will put them at a disadvantage.

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  3. I agree with the above post, there is a difference between CP 1 and CP2. I also think there is a difference between A and A+ and don't understand why they have the same weight... getting a 93 is very different from getting a 97 or above. I think there should be a distinction in every letter - why do it for B, C, and D's but not A's?

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  4. I agree with the BHS parent. Kids should not be put to a disadvantage in the gpa simply because they are not allowed to take AP classes. This is something that I strongly believe can not and should not be changed. Students are taking AP classes for simply for college credit. My child will be going to BHS in a few years and I know she wants to persue prestigious colleges and this will not help as this will complicate her college resume even more with a gpa on a scale of 5.0.

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  5. I disagree with making a destinction between A's and A+'s because I am well aware of teachers that simply do not give A+'s. If it is changed it should not be changed significantly as it will limit the student's choice for future colleges. However, I also agree that there is a difference between CP1 and CP2. Personally, I strongly believe that this is one thing that does not need to be changed moving forward.

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  6. The best decision is to keep the same scale we are using right now. Stated in the previous comments, most of the AP classes are only offered to upperclassmen, so obviously it's a disadvantage for the sophomores and freshmen. Also, some students only want to take those subjects they are interested in, and there are very limited AP classes. A new GPA scale can be very frustrating for many students.

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  7. I understand the desire for change moving forward but this is the best decision to keep the same scale we are using right now. Changing the scale will make students even more focused on their gpa and discouraged.

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  8. "Therefore, students
    would never be able to achieve a perfect gpa like on the 4.0 scale. "

    Students shouldn't necessarily be striving for perfection. I believe that as long as students are doing their best work, there should be no reason that we look at getting below perfect as any sort of failure.

    I believe this system will encourage students to take harder classes. I also believe, on the contrary to what other people have said, that this new system puts less emphasis on GPA, as currently, some students are discouraged from taking harder courses due to the effect on their GPA. Since this weights AP courses differently since they ARE significantly more difficult, more students will be willing to challenge themselves.

    Colleges and universities reweight GPAs based on their own system, so this will not create a disadvantage for our students.

    I'm surprised this many people are opposed to the change in GPA. All the students and faculty I talked to agreed that changing the weighting system was a positive effort.

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  9. In reply to Walter's comment,

    If someone is applying to an ivy league or prestigious school the gpa is extremely important. Every little detail counts. In addition it is unfair as underclassmen will not be able to take AP classes and achieve that weighted credit.

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  10. In response to Walter's comments:

    How do you know that colleges reweight GPAs? I'm just concerned that this will effect a student's chances of getting into their choice of college because of their gpa is not high enough due to this 5.0 scale..

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  11. I just have a quick question. On the new proposed 5.0 scale, an A is a 4.5 and an A on the old scale is a 4. So when colleges look at that would the 4.5 become a 3.5? I just see this as a disadvantage because it would lower the gpa because there is most definitly a difference between a 3.5 gpa and a 3.7. gpa..

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  12. GPA is important, but colleges do reweight the GPA to their own system, which as Mr. Attubato said at the school committee meeting last night, is usually similar to this system we are implementing. I know that colleges reweight GPAs because as a junior, I've been doing extensive college research.

    It is fair to underclassmen because NO underclassmen have the opportunity to take AP courses. Therefore, since the same opportunities are offered to all students entering BHS, everybody is on an even playing field. GPAs are only compared to GPAs of students in the same class, not among the four grades.

    In response to the question, colleges would reweight GPAs in their own way, so the system BHS has is irrelevant.

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  13. There are some great questions in the comment stream and one clear point that needs to be addressed is that we should not be making any change that will negatively impact our students when they are applying for colleges. There is a big discussion here and I will provide some feedback on this issue tomorrow. I know that Mr. Attubato and the Guidance Staff have been talking to college admissions people and I think it is important that you hear specifics from our Guidance staff. In addition, I would like to get you some firsthand feedback from some college admissions representatives. I know that the Ivy League has been mentioned and I know that we discussed this topic with an admission rep from Harvard.

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  14. As a student at BHS I am completely in favor of the proposed system of GPA calculation. Even though it will not effect me, I believe that it will have a positive effect on students.

    I know many people who decided against taking challenging AP classes because they did not want their GPA negatively impacted. AP classes are considerably harder than honors classes and it is only fair to reward an A in a AP with more weight than an A in honors.

    I am also in favor of weighting A's and A+'s the same, because as a previous comment stated, there are some teachers who simply do not give A+'s. To me, there is little distinction between the two grades, and I am happy to receive either. It also puts less pressure on students to be perfect and get 100's on absolutely everything.

    As for the fact that underclassmen cannot take AP classes, while it does prevent perfect 5.0 GPA's, there are required classes that do the same. The 500-900 required electives are all CPI as are the required health classes. And even if freshmen and sophomores were able to take AP classes, there are only two AP English classes offered by the AP, both available at our school, they would only be able to take two years of AP English, so that automatically leaves two years of honors English, which is the current system.

    Overall, I am firmly in favor of changing the system, I believe it will do nothing but motivate and benefit Burlington students.

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  15. 1. Classes are leveled for a reason and students' GPA (and therefore class rank) should not be negatively impacted because some students choose to challenge themselves. Some at BHS have a better GPA and class rank because it's easier to ace CP1 classes then to work really hard for Bs in the honors classes. They same applies to AP courses.
    2. There must be more credit given to a student who earns an A+. There is too big of a spread in the range (92-100) not to provide distinction.
    3. To the teachers that don't give A+s: If the student has earned it, give it to them. Don't purposely manipulate a student's grades over the of the year to "show improvement." All classes at all levels should give students the opportunity to receive a A+ if they deserve it. This needs to be consistent within BHS.
    4. Most students don't take AP courses for college credits. In fact, few actually get credit in college for AP classes. Most take them to challenge themselves and show colleges they are willing to work hard.
    5. The CP1 courses should be the baseline as proposal 2 supports. This needs to be identified as where our core group of students are who are sufficiently challenged on a daily basis and are putting in signficant effort to achieve their grades.

    The current system does need to be changed and I don't think your proposal far off. Keep at it.

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  16. As a guidance counselor who has worked at other schools with a weighting system similar to the one being proposed, I can attest that this system did not hurt students' acceptance to selective colleges. College admissions representatives make comparisons between students in the same school based on what offerings were available to them and what weighting system that high school uses (e.g. a BHS senior's GPA is compared to other BHS seniors; not to seniors at other high schools). Many colleges do use their own systems of recalculating GPAs that factor in the level of the course and more weight is given to AP and Honors courses respectively. The proposal to give higher weight at BHS to AP courses would be hoped to result in more students who are capable choosing to take AP courses, which would also make them more competitive in the admissions pool. Those schools that place less emphasis on GPA (particularly highly selective small colleges)place even greater weight on whether a student has taken the most challenging courses available.
    On a separate note, I also respect the arguments for not giving less weight to CPII courses. Similarly, I feel strongly that an A in a CPI should not be weighted less than a 4.0 as a student of average ability should not be penalized.

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  17. It appears that many people are misinformed about how a high school GPA "looks" to a college. I think Walter explained it perfectly.

    Every high school around the country has a different system for grading and calculating GPA so that is why colleges ask each student/high school for a copy of their school profile during the college application process. This profile outlines the grading/GPA/ranking system at any given school so it is clearly spelled out to the college. They review this info very carefully and basically translate everything using their own system/scale. Using a 5.0 GPA scale will NOT put our students at a disadvantage. The information that comes from BHS regarding grades/GPA/rank is only used to compare students AT BHS.

    And just as Walter said, a 5.0 scale does NOT put underclassmen at a disadvantage "because NO underclassmen have the opportunity to take AP courses. Therefore, since the same opportunities are offered to all students entering BHS, everybody is on an even playing field. GPAs are only compared to GPAs of students in the same class, not among the four grades."

    BHS would not even consider this decision if it put our students at a disadvantage. We want our students to get into the best schools just as much as they do!

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  18. From year to year we have many college admissions representatives comment on our course weighting system. Most colleges will re-calculate the G.P.A, but they are quite surprised by the fact that our honors courses hold the same weight as an AP course. We have also heard from students and parents on this issue over the years. A few years ago a BHS committee looked into giving AP courses more weight and the decision was made to keep the current system. This year BHS students felt it was time to look at this again. Teachers and students agreed wholeheartedly that AP courses should hold more weight. When we looked at what surrounding schools were doing we found that each school handles this issue in different ways (this goes for across the country as well). Some local schools that give AP courses more weight than honors are: Stoneham uses a 5.1 system (an A in A.P. is 5.1, an A in honors is 5.0, etc., an A in CP I is 4.5, etc.), Reading and Wakefield use a 5.0 System (an A in AP is a 5.0; an A in honors is 4.5, etc.). Other schools that give AP courses additional weight are Wilmington, Woburn, Concord- Carlisle, Watertown and Melrose. Winchester actually still weighs AP and Honors the same based on a 4.5 system.

    Colleges and universities wouldn’t hold a particular GPA system against a high school student. Colleges look at that system and use that to make a decision. The GPA scale a high school used is not a factor in an admission decision. This is really an internal decision on how to handle this. Some of the major factors a college will take notice of before making a decision are:

    1. The student's GPA ( based on the high school system used).
    2. The activities he or she was involved in.
    3. The essay
    4. The high school curriculum and courses taken by the student
    5. The range and median of student GPAs
    6. The range and median of SAT and ACT scores
    7. The number of Advanced Placement Program® courses taken by the students
    8. Student portfolios (with writing or project samples)
    9. Personal recommendations from teachers or counselors describing specific attributes, behaviors, skills, achievements, etc. ]
    10. G.P.A. Profile- this is a breakdown of ALL G.P.A’s in the class based on grouping

    Again please keep in mind when admission committees make decisions on students they will look at each student in that context of that school.

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  19. I like the scale that Stoneham uses. It's very unique and the difference between AP and Honor classes is very small. In addition, I have been wondering why we're bothering to change the GPA scale if colleges are going to reweight them anyways?

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  20. I also like the scale that Stoneham uses becaues their is a destinction but not a huge destinction.

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  21. I am a junior in mechanical engineering at UML, and as a BHS Graduate I would like to just say that the system does need to be reworked. I took mainly honors courses and received the same grade as students in lower level classes, yet they graduated around the same rank as me or above because I chose to challenge myself.

    Also underclassmen are not at a disadvantage since when the upperclassmen were underclassmen they could not take AP courses either.

    Although we do not like to say that GPA is important and to do your best. GPA is important. Especially when apply to colleges. In order to get into a college you need a good GPA. This does not change in college. In order to get into Graduate School you need a good GPA in my case to stay at UML for Graduate school I need above a 3.0.

    So as long as students can realize they did their best (which comes with maturity) it is important to stress GPA I feel and this scale is a way to do this.

    Hope this helps. Keep working at it.

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  22. Mental health issues are rising nationwide
    among school aged children. Anxiety,
    depression and teen suicide are major problems. Many experts believe there is just too much pressure to perform in too many areas today. Mandatory volunteer work, extracurricular activities, pressure to enroll in all of the highest level classes available and life in general all compete for a student's time and attention today. Add to that the pressure to stay in the top tier of the class rank and to get accepted to the best colleges at $50,000+ per year and we have a recipe for these mental health problems.If the top GPA becomes a 5.0 then far more students will feel the pressure to perform at that level and far more parents will push their children into those classes in an effort to remain competitive. Do we really need this? Or do just the AP students, teachers and parents want it?
    I do believe it is great to raise the bar. But, please be thoughtful when you do it. Balance the extra challenges with what life's real rewards are.

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  23. In regards to the issue of raising the bar, I think there are some misconceptions on what is happening here. It will be impossible for a student to earn a 5.0 GPA due to the fact that you could not take all AP courses. We are simply altering the weighting of these courses to signify that AP course is more rigorous than other courses.

    In addition, our next conversation surrounding grading will be about altering class rank and looking at a system that looks at student ranks in deciles rather than the current model. We agree with the mental health and stress concerns that you bring up.

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  24. As a junior at BHS I have seen the need to reform the GPA system and I am happy that it is being discussed. There should be a distinction between AP and honors classes in GPA, but the more important distinction is between Honors and CP 1 classes. Right now, there is only a .2-.3 point distinction between those classes, which means an A- in an honors class is equivalent to an A in a CP 1 class. I believe, and have heard a few teachers say, that the difference in difficulties between the levels is much bigger than the GPA weighting would suggest. When students are so worried about their grades to get into college, taking an easier level class and only getting penalized 0.2 points is greatly worth it. This is why there were so many transfers this year in the junior class (I believe about 20 students transferred from AP World History to Honors World History sometime during the first term, and many transferred out of Honors Math into CP 1 Math, even if CP 1 math is not challenging for them). A new system, like either of the two proposals, would encourage students to challenge themselves through the greater point distinction between class levels.

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  25. The claim that underclassmen who can't take AP will be disadvantaged by weighting AP higher is not accurate. Underclassmen's GPAs are not ever compared to upperclassmen. A student's GPA is only relevant within their class (seniors are only compared to seniors, etc).

    The inequity is with students who take AP classes, that are significantly more rigorous than honors classes, and are not rewarded for their efforts.

    The vast majority of high schools weight AP courses higher than honors.

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  26. Will the new system affect the courses we have already taken when applying to college when I am going to be a senior?

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  27. Any changes will not impact students that are already at BHS. It would be confusing and possibly unfair to change the way that we calculate class weight once students are already at BHS. Any changes will be put in place and start with an incoming 9th grade class.

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  28. Another BHS JuniorJanuary 2, 2011 at 10:04 PM

    Sorry if my wording is a little hard to understand.

    I haven't read through all the other posts, but by looking at the two proposals, I think that you guys are over-thinking it. When you look at the current weights, the difference between CP-1 and CP-2 is that the weights are shifted down. So for CP-1, an A+ is a 4.0 while CP-2 is a 3.7. And the difference between honor/ap and CP-1 is that a 4.0 is for A+ and A for honors/ap, while 4.0 is exclusive to an A+ and 3.7 starts at an A for CP-1.

    I believe that we should "shift" down for AP weights because that's what we're doing already. In other words, we're expanding what qualifies as a 4.0 for AP classes. So, A+, A, and A- for AP classes would be weighted at a 4.0, while 3.7 would start at a B+. If AP and Honors classes are weighted the same, then there's no incentive to take them. People would opt to take the easier class. Also, by this simple "shift," wouldn't it be easy to simply change the grades of all students currently taking AP classes? If so, it could be implemented for all students, not just and incoming 9th grade class.

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  29. Another BHS JuniorJanuary 2, 2011 at 10:07 PM

    Sorry if my wording is a little hard to understand.

    I haven't read through all the other posts, but by looking at the two proposals, I think that you guys are over-thinking it. When you look at the current weights, the difference between CP-1 and CP-2 is that the weights are shifted down. So for CP-1, an A+ is a 4.0 while CP-2 is a 3.7. And the difference between honor/ap and CP-1 is that a 4.0 is for A+ and A for honors/ap, while 4.0 is exclusive to an A+ and 3.7 starts at an A for CP-1.

    I believe that we should "shift" down for AP weights because that's what we're doing already. In other words, we're expanding what qualifies as a 4.0 for AP classes. So, A+, A, and A- for AP classes would be weighted at a 4.0, while 3.7 would start at a B+. If AP and Honors classes are weighted the same, then there's no incentive to take them. People would opt to take the easier class. Also, by this simple "shift," wouldn't it be easy to simply change the grades of all students currently taking AP classes? If so, it could be implemented for all students, not just and incoming 9th grade class.

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