After almost 100 public comments at four separate Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education Meetings this year, the District has decided that it will implement a blanket weighted GPA system model for both Palo Alto High School and Henry M. Gunn High School. Seniors’ weighted GPAs will be reported not only on transcripts sent to their Early Action and Early Decision schools, but also on mid-year transcripts. UC/CSU weighted grades will only be reported on seniors transcripts if specifically requested.
On Nov. 21, the Board unanimously approved a proposition to use Gunn’s weighting system, which gives weight to all all honors or Advanced Placement (AP) courses in each high school’s course catalogue.
The proposal to use Gunn’s model received strong support from audience members, many of whom also attended the Nov. 15 Board Meeting, where they had advocated for adopting Gunn’s procedure for calculating weighted GPAs.
“Do not use the UC/CSU weighted GPA. It is not a weighted GPA that any other school uses, and it’s really not that helpful because so much is missing from it. Most colleges want a cumulative weighted GPA. For the short term plan only the Gunn [model] would be a perfect match.”
Victoria Liu, Paly parent at the Nov. 15 meeting.
The decision to adopt Gunn’s weighting system rejected the District Office staff’s proposal, which would have modified the UC/CSU weighting system that Paly is currently offering its seniors for their Early Action and Early Decision schools. The proposal recommended including ninth grade courses in weighted GPA calculations and eliminated the eight-semester cap on AP credit that the UC/CSU system uses.
Board Member Camille Townsend, who proposed using Gunn’s model, argued that the District should use the model that gave students the largest GPA boost.
“My goal has always been to provide seniors a way to use their most favorable unweighted or weighted GPAs on their transcripts for this years merit, aid and admissions in a manner that is transparent, simple, useful, automatic and reflective of their school work,” Townsend said.
This position received support from seniors David Tayeri and Ankit Ranjan, Paly and Gunn’s respective student Board representatives.
“From everything I’ve heard I suggest that the Board move to use Gunn’s weighting system at Paly,” Ranjan said. “Since, under Gunn’s weighting system everyone will have a greater weighted GPA than their unweighted GPA, I think it would be [ideal]to make it easier for high schools to make [cumulative GPA] automatically [reported to colleges].”
The Board’s strongest voice of opposition to the new GPA implementation proposal came from Board Member Ken Dauber who, despite eventually voting to use Gunn’s model, criticized changing policy on weighted grades due to potential confusion and unintended consequences for the Paly seniors.
“At this very critical point in their high school career [we are not going to be able to discern all of the unintended] consequences of the decisions we are making. Which is why I want to be guided by the idea [that the School Board] should change as little as possible.”
Ken Dauber, School Board Member
Under this rationale, Dauber suggested an amendment to Townsend’s proposal which would have only given weighted credit to classes that the UC/CSU system weights. This meant that classes such as Biology Honors and Chemistry Honors would not have been weighted. Dauber’s amendment was defeated 3-2, with the Board’s Terry Godfrey joining Dauber in support of the motion.
Dauber also proposed making reporting the cumulative GPA optional rather than mandatory, but his motion failed to get a second.
However, the Board did pass a second motion which allows students to report their UC/CSU weighted grade in addition to their unweighted GPA and cumulative weighted GPA. This is because, as Paly College Advisor Sandra Cernobori pointed out, some students have higher UC/CSU weighted GPAs than cumulative weighted GPAs, due to strong academic performances during sophomore and junior year and in their A-G classes.
At the end of the meeting, Board President Heidi Emberling urged the community to stay involved over the coming months as the Board forms committees and holds more meetings to decide what the long term solutions concerning weighted GPAs will be.