Weighted grades would motivate students to deeper challenges

Vincent Stigliani/Editor-in-Chief

I don’t have many gripes with school policy. I can understand the rationale behind most programs and practices, at least to some degree. What I still cannot wrap my mind around, however, is the logic behind the school’s unweighted grading system.

With our current method, every course is equal in the context of GPA. Someone receiving an A in regular chemistry is exactly equivalent to someone else receiving an A in honors chemistry. This also means that someone taking all available honors classes for four years and receiving one B will have a lower GPA, and thus class rank, than another student taking all regular-level classes who receives all A’s.

As anyone could predict, this greatly reduces the incentive to choose challenging coursework. Although in an ideal world everyone would learn for learning’s sake, in actuality this doesn’t hold true. For many, the choice seems simple; why forge through the extra work and increased difficulty when you can receive the exact same credit with much less effort?
Cedar Falls High School prides itself on strong academics, and rightfully so, but I believe that unweighted grades hold it back from an even greater level of student success. Weighted grades would undoubtedly act as a powerful incentive for students to challenge and push themselves further. This, in turn, would likely raise the overall level of student achievement and bolster the school’s strong academic reputation.

In a weighted system, certain advanced classes carry more “weight.” This means that, depending on the method, these classes are based on a 4.5 or a 5.0 scale. Which courses carry weight is a point of debate, but I would advocate it for honors core classes (English, math, science, and social studies) and all Advanced Placement courses.

There are multiple complaints I have heard against this system, one along the lines of, “Why should we reward and punish people based on in-born intellectual differences?” I completely understand this argument and agree with it when applied to a system like the Renaissance test exemption (whose abolishing I wholly supported). In the context of weighted grades, however, the reasoning hardly applies, for there is no “reward” that only some students are receiving. Everyone receives a GPA, which should be a measure self-motivation, level of achievement and academic aptitude. As the sole factor in class rank and a deciding factor in college admissions, unweighted grades invalidly assess these qualities.

A second argument, one which I believe carries more merit, says, “Why should a semester’s worth of work and accomplishments of a dedicated band student carry less weight than the work of an honors biology student.” I strongly believe in the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to education, where musical and artistic ability are nurtured. I also support requirements for classes in these areas. However, I think a fair weighted system would only recognize advanced classes in core areas.

First, while only a handful of students will pursue music, for example, in college, nearly everyone will encounter and utilize the core areas in some capacity. Additionally, for the fine arts, students often supplement their applications with personal auditions or bodies of work, with GPA being less of a factor.

With this in mind, I hope that school policy-makers will weigh their options, and, with any luck, our grades as well.

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