Sunday, March 04, 2001

Are all grades created equal?


Highlands to ask how advanced classes should affect GPA

By Lori Hayes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT THOMAS — One of Northern Kentucky's top performing high schools wants to change the way it calculates students' grade-point averages, putting regular and advanced courses on even footing.

        The Fort Thomas school board will meet Monday night to hear the issue. Highlands' school council approved the idea last spring and took it to the board in June. The board did not take action then.

        Highlands High School is proposing to do away with its weighted grade scale, which gives a GPA boost to students taking advanced courses. Instead of the usual 4.0 scale, the school uses a 6.0 scale, so a student taking only advanced courses would receive a 6.0 for the term if he or she achieved a perfect grade in every class.

        If the proposal is ap proved, only Advanced Placement classes that offer college credit would be weighted.

        “We contend kids in regular classes work just as hard as those in advanced classes because they don't have the same ability level,” Highlands Principal George Frakes said.

        However, some students and parents argue that students should be rewarded for taking higher-level classes.

        “I've taken some regular classes, and they're easier. It's easier to pull off the "A,'” said junior Sam Christy, 16, who is taking five

        advanced classes. “We do work harder in the higher-level classes.”

        The proposed scale would align the school with the new state-funded Kentucky Education Excellence Scholarship, which only gives students extra points for Advanced Placement classes.

        School officials also say the change would allow students to get a more well-rounded education.

        Some students avoid standard elective classes, such as music or consumer sciences, because an “A” in those courses does not carry as much weight as an “A” in an advanced class, Mr. Frakes said.

        “It's a barrier to education,” he said.

        But students should be encouraged to take the more difficult academic classes to prepare for college, said Linda Sheffield, whose son was last year's valedictorian and graduated with a year's worth of college credit from Advanced Placement courses.

        “The big worry is that fewer students would take higher-level classes” if not given the extra incentives, she said. “The school will stop offering those courses if students stop taking them.”

        Highlands posts some of the highest test scores in the state, and more than 80 percent of the school's graduates go on to college. Those students will continue taking advanced classes to prepare for that move, Mr. Frakes said.

        “When colleges look at a transcript, they want to see how rigorous your courses have been,” he said.

        Students are divided.

        Last month, some students gave the school board a petition with 200 signatures opposing the proposed scale. However, the student council recently voted 9-6 in favor of the proposal.

        Student council president Andrea Reitano, 18, favors the proposed scale because it won't penalize students for taking classes that interest them.

        Ms. Reitano said she has always leaned toward advanced classes to boost her grade-point average. She plans to major in hotel and restaurant management in college, but until this year she avoided cooking and food classes because they didn't provide the extra credit.

        But Sam, the student council vice president, fears the school will limit its advanced offerings.

        “If you remove some of the incentives for advanced or Advanced Placement classes, then the attendance in those classes will drop because you'll get a better GPA if you're in a lower class,” he said.

        In February, Talawanda City Schools in Butler County adopted a weighted grade policy to increase the number of high school students taking honors and Advanced Placement courses.

        “It was recommended as a way to motivate and reward students who choose to take more academically challenging classes,” Superintendent Susan Cobb said.

        Neither Kentucky's nor Ohio's public universities require high schools to report grade-point averages on a 4.0 scale for admission. But the traditional, unweighted scale is often preferred for scholarship applications.

        More than half of the schools that send application information to the University of Cincinnati use some type of a weighted scale, said Karen Ramos, associate director of admissions.

        Highlands guidance counselors currently calculate three grade-point averages for students: one using the school's 6.0 scale, one on a 4.0 scale for colleges and one on a 5.0 scale for Kentucky's state-funded scholarship program.

        Jennifer Mrozowski contributed to this report.
       

       



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