As soon as November, Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) will take the next step in making Palo Alto High School and Henry M. Gunn align their approaches to reporting grades to colleges, requiring Gunn to eliminate weighted GPAs.
Both schools have already agreed to rank students based on unweighted GPA in just five groupings, a reduction for both Paly and Gunn.
The district is looking for student feedback as to whether Gunn should make the transition away from weighted grades.
“I am really interested in what students have to say,” PAUSD Superintendent Max McGee said. “I’ve already heard from students on both sides of the debate.”
McGee stressed the importance of Paly and Gunn eliminating inconsistencies, starting with each school’s profiles. A school profile is a brochure or flyer that includes information about the types of classes offered at the school, and how the student body performed in these classes.
“We’re a school district with a central vision and core beliefs,” McGee said. “The inconsistencies are a source of stress.”
Complete parity has yet to be achieved when it comes to the reporting of weighted and unweighted GPAs. Traditionally, Gunn counsellors have calculated a student’s weighted GPA in addition to their unweighted GPA, at students’ request. The weighted GPA can then be provided to certain colleges that require it.
Weighted GPAs have recently come under fire as unnecessary and a cause of student stress. The administration maintains that having a weighted GPA may drive students to enroll in more honors and Advanced Placement classes than they can handle. However, some students feel that if weighted grades are eliminated, they are not being rewarded for taking advanced courses. A board decision in the next couple of months could make Gunn dispose of weighted grades altogether.
A detailed grading context — the breakdown of a class’s GPAs into ranges — seems to have been sacrificed in Paly’s newest profile. Only five categories will be used, as opposed to the 10 that Paly used last year.
McGee believes that Paly and Gunn’s reputations speak for themselves, and that overly detailed profiles with a lot of grading context are not useful to colleges.
“They know our school, they know our math and science academia, they know our partner schools,” McGee said.
Some students disagree and think that a lack of grading context can harm students.
“More categories would benefit high-performing students,” Paly junior Maya Lathi said. “[It would] distinguish them further from their classmates as dedicated individuals.”