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District seeks additional student input on weighted GPA debate before final decision

In the latest debate surrounding weighted grade point averages (GPAs), Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) officials convened at Palo Alto High School to hear student opinion on the charged issue.

The hour-long forum held hosted in the Media Arts Center (MAC) by PAUSD Superintendent Max McGee is an attempt to gather student input before the Board of Education makes a concrete decision about long-term grade reporting practices by its self-imposed April 1 deadline.

Around 20 students attended the forum, though some arrived late or left early. A poll taken of the students in attendance, found that 67 percent of students at the forum favored reporting both weighted and unweighted (Grade Point Averages) GPA on transcripts. This support is unsurprising considering that many in support of weighted grades primarily saw this method as a way to increase scholarship chances.

“If [Principal Kim Diorio] is willing to call in, write letters and appeal [scholarship decisions] and if 100 percent of the time they give that scholarship, I am willing to give up weighted GPAs, but if she is unwilling and can’t or she fails once there’s always the worry that that kid can’t go to college.”

Hannah Itzkowtiz, Paly junior

Students on the other side of the issue denounced weighted GPAs as a useless, stress-inducing practice.

“When I was applying to the [University of California Schools] there was a little section that tells you whether you are in the top 9 percent of the senior class; it doesn’t affect your admissions because Paly students generally have a lot higher grades than [in] other schools, but it was still a source of stress for me when my GPA was not enough to qualify me for that 9 percent,” said senior Laura Sieh.

However, when polled, only 36 percent of students present thought that weighted GPA would increase stress and 55 percent thought it would have no affect at all on stress.

30 percent of those polled feared that weighting grades would discourage students from taking electives:

“The reason that my GPA was lower than other students was not because I didn’t do well in courses. I had all A’s during [sophomore and junior year] but it was because I took courses like journalism and theater, which are courses that I find have been influential to my development as a person and I think disincentivizing [students from taking non-weighted classes] would be a big mistake.”

Laura Sieh, Paly senior

The other 70 percent polled felt that students are more intrinsically motivated and will continue to take classes that interest them rather than ones that simply offer a grade point boost.

“One of the things that disappoints me when it happens is when people assume that those people taking would-be weighted courses are taking it for the points, and not for the sake of learning,” said junior Chloe Hong. “It disappoints me even more when this is the attitude of the administration.”

The District will continue its community outreach on weighted GPAs with a webinar from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and a community forum at Gunn High School on Feb. 13 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

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