AP classes deserve weighted grades

By Alex Ulfers 2007

To most high school students, making sure that they get into the right college is perhaps the most stressful part of their lives. Students practically kill to get into certain schools, and many times, getting into the “best” schools does require a near perfect resume. Included in that resume is a student’s class rank.

Dan Conrad, director of secondary education in Cedar Falls, said that qualitative data shows CFHS students tend to shy away from AP classes and A-track classes because students are trying to protect the grade point average and class rank that they have nurtured since their freshmen years at Peet or Holmes Junior Highs. Because of this, smart student are settling for a lesser education.

On the other hand, student who risk an A- or a B+ in an advanced class risk falling in class rank because these classes are much harder. The time has come to end this injustice and balance the playing field. Cedar Falls High School needs to give students in advanced classes a “bump” when it comes to class rank.

In Waterloo, Columbus High School implemented a system that rewarded students for taking a tough class instead of taking the easy way out. Blair Thielen, former director of guidance for Columbus High, said that Columbus High School would run two grade points. One was the standard grade point average that showed on report cards, transcripts and other shcool documents. A second grade point was used to determine class rank. This average weighted classes that the school board deemed accelerated or advanced. The bump could potentially raise a student’s class rank. For example, two students may have a GPA of 3.9. While one student took English 9, the other took accelerated English 9. The student who took the advanced course would received a higher class rank even though they held identical grade points.

The system worked well and encouraged students to take the more difficult courses. Columbus considered using a 5.0 system for students taking advanced courses, but after consulting with colleges, class rank better determined a student’s capabilities.

Cedar Falls must now follow suit. By using the system Columbus implemented several years ago as a building block, we can change it to fit our needs. Susan Langan, a CFHS guidance counselor, said that weighting class rank has come up more than once in discussions. “The hang up is always what we should weight and what should stay the same,” she said.

I propose a simple solution. Let’s start by weighting Advanced Placement (AP) classes. These classes are obviously harder. Students enrolled in these courses take on the standardized workload of a college level class. A-track classes could be added in the future.

Here and now is the place to start. We can no longer afford to punish students for taking something that is considered harder than an average class. Rather, let’s reward them for their efforts by giving them the rank they deserve.


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