As of the 2019-20 school year, students at West, City and Liberty high schools will receive weighted GPAs. The class of 2019 will graduate under the current unweighted GPA system. Principal Gregg Shoultz cites the primary motivation to be that many Iowa colleges and universities offer awards, such as scholarships, “based on the incoming GPA of the students they enroll” without taking into account whether schools weight GPAs or not.
The weighted GPA system will give students five points instead of the unweighted four for AP and Honors courses. Thus, an A in one of these courses will be worth five points, a B worth four, a C worth three, a D worth two and an F worth zero, allowing students to graduate with a GPA above 4.00. Kirkwood Community College course grades will not be weighted. University of Iowa courses will not count toward overall GPA. However, students will still receive credit for classes taken at both institutions. P.E. will remain left out of GPA until the 2020-21 school year, as all schools are trying to create a similar rubric.
“By going to this system we feel like we’ve eliminated the negative pressures that students feel to maintain a four point and eliminated the feeling that they need to compete with their classmates, because they don’t need to compete for rank,” Shoultz said. “I feel better about it.”
Also important in the decision, for which discussions picked up among all three high school principals, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessments Diane Schumacher and Assistant Superintendent Matt Degner this last school year, were desires for all students to take more challenging, college-level courses and to close the achievement gap in schools and these classes in working with Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS).
“[EOS is] a program we’ve been doing for two years, which helps us target low-income and non-traditional students take Honors and AP classes,” Shoultz said. “They asked us to look at our policies surrounding getting into an AP. … When grading, do you provide an incentive for all students to take these classes? We did not.”
Some AP and Honors courses currently employ a shifted grading system, with an 85 percent or above constituting an A. This will no longer be the case next year, as all students will need to finish a class with 90 percent to receive an A.
The effects of this change will begin to take effect during the graduation of the class of 2020. Shoultz proposes to also alter graduation honors titles, allowing all students who obtain a 4.01 GPA or above to graduate summa cum laude, with the highest distinction. A GPA within 3.75 and 4.00 will allow a student to graduate magna cum laude, with great distinction, and a GPA within 3.50 and 3.74 will allow a student to graduate cum laude, with distinction. Students will still need to meet the 340 credit minimum to graduate with honors. There will no longer be valedictorian distinction.
This should not affect students in the college admissions process, because the school will note the year that the weighted GPA system took place on transcripts.
Shoultz unveiled the change a week before students will begin to register for next year’s courses.
Updated: Friday, Jan. 10, 2019 at 10:13 a.m.