School board to discuss weighted vs. unweighted transcripts

    The Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education will be discussing whether PAUSD high schools will be submitting weighted or unweighted grade point averages to colleges at 6:30 Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the district office.

    The meeting will include a discussion of grade reporting after concerns were raised by parents and students. The full discussion agenda can be found here.

    A number of Palo Alto parents and students are pushing for the option of reporting weighted GPAs, and have sent numerous messages to Paly administration and the school board, according to Principal Kim Diorio.

    PTSA President Katie Shade sent an e-mail to Paly parents on Wednesday to inform them of Paly’s position statement in response to the message.

    Paly’s position paper states that the administration and faculty “feel strongly that when schools use weighted grades, a culture of competition and stress develops” and stand against submitting weighted GPAs. Stating there should be no submitting of weighted GPAs for this years’ graduating class, which has caused uproar from some parents and students

    In a meeting with the Paly Associated Student Body, Diorio outlined her concerns with submitting weighted GPAs.

    “By having an unweighted transcript, it draws focus away from student competition and will help reduce stress,” Diorio said. “[Gunn Principal] Dr. [Denise] Herrmann and I have big goals in redefining success and strengthening Gunn and Paly culture. We want to have alternate pathways to success, where students are more than their GPA.”

    According to Diorio, for the past 35 years Paly has been exclusively reporting unweighted grades. Neither Gunn nor Paly report weighted grades on transcripts, and Gunn reports weighted grades within applications.

    Gunn School Board Representative senior Ankit Ranjan says this difference between the schools’ reporting methods has pushed students from both PAUSD high schools to voice their opinions on the matter at the upcoming board meeting.

    “Gunn students can ask to have either their weighted or unweighted GPA reported [to colleges],” Ranjan said. “We’re currently working with members of the Paly community with [Paly senior] Maya Katz in getting more students involved at Tuesday’s board meeting.”

    According to the School Board agenda, the primary argument in support of weighted grades to this point has revolved around scholarships for out of state public schools, particularly University of Oregon. Scholarship money is important, and according to counselors, is increasingly more of a factor for students making decisions as to what institutions they will apply to and attend.  The discussion around weighted grading arose from a conversation several months ago regarding the University of Oregon’s practices for awarding merit scholarships.  The University awards an automatic $36,000 Summit Scholarship for out of state students with a GPA of 3.8 or higher, and an automatic $16,000 Apex Scholarship for a GPA of 3.6 or higher.  They do not recalculate GPAs and only use what is on the transcript.

    Concerns raised by parent and students of the Paly community are primarily represented by Katz and her family. Katz has recently reached out to Paly and Gunn Student Executive Council (SEC) in bringing more student voice into the issue.

    In a subsequent meeting with Paly ASB, Katz articulated her position on the issue, stating the need for the submission of weighted GPAs for students seeking scholarships.

    “I’ve come to ASB to get more students informed on the issue, and to make sure students are able to understand what is at stake,” Katz said. “By releasing only unweighted GPAs we become ineligible for merit-based scholarships for universities. Students with an unweighted GPA of 3.75, for example, and a weighted GPA of 4.0 will not be eligible for scholarships that require a 3.8. That’s $36,000 or more just because of the report. I’ve spoken to the admissions staff for universities like University of Oregon and they blatantly said they would not accept this GPA for a scholarship. If a weighted GPA were submitted, this wouldn’t be the case.”

    Katz says she wants all students to have a say regardless of if they agree or disagree with her opinion, and is currently working with her family and a community of parents in doing research to better inform members of the Paly community of the issue.

    “There are a lot of parents involved in this, and it’s important to be getting more students involved,” Katz said. “It will affect them directly.”

    Katz will be speaking at the upcoming board meeting this Tuesday.

    McGee recommends that the board not make any change for this years’ graduating seniors (class of 2017), and then make a decision after community involvement. He has mentioned that he is predisposed to not offering a weighted grade option in order to limit our emphasis on honors and AP classes, but doesn’t want to make a decision without consulting students, according to statements made by Ranjan, Diorio and Paly School Board Representative David Tayeri.

    According to McGee, the board meeting will not feature a vote on the issue that day, but will instead be a chance for an open discussion that could lead to a vote in the future.

    “Please let everyone know that there is no action item on the agenda for the 18th,” McGee stated according to the email from Shade. “[The meeting] is an information[al] discussion item that may or may not lead to action at a future date.”

    McGee is interested in receiving comprehensive student input, according to Tayeri. McGee has contacted Tayeri in providing an outlet for students to voice their concerns.

    “Until a couple years ago, board members would buy pizza and invite students to discuss their views on issues,” Tayeri said. “They’d have time to talk to board members one-on-one. They haven’t done this in a few years, but I think it would be a good idea to bring that back. There is enough student engagement that we would have a good turnout.”

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