Weighted GPAs

I am strongly supporting Todd Collins in the upcoming school board election. Todd has also been endorsed by Mayor Pat Burt, the Palo Alto Weekly, the Daily Post, and the Paly Voice, as well as many current and former school board members and other elected officials. Todd brings to the board a decade-long record of effective volunteering, including an analysis of our school bond that saved district taxpayers over $800 million(!). He is the only candidate running for the board who fully grasps the importance of making sound financial decisions. Had he been on the board this past year, we might well have avoided the disastrous decisions to grant unnecessarily high pay raises and to avoid cutting non-educational expenditures that have led to the current budget deficits. Those deficits, in turn, will inevitably result in larger class sizes and less educational services to our students.

Weighted GPAs

There has recently been a lot of discussion about how weighted GPAs are calculated and reported at Paly and Gunn. (Weighted GPAs give extra points to certain classes that are seen as more difficult). Weighted GPAs are covered by an existing PAUSD board policy that requires the superintendent to recommend to the board whether GPAs should be weighted, and if so how. Dr. McGee is in the process of reviewing the district's current practices to make a recommendation. Weighted GPAs do not replace unweighted GPAs, which are the primary mechanism for summarizing student performance in their classes.

Although I have not yet reached a definitive conclusion on how this should be handled, my thinking at this time is that both high schools should include a weighted GPA on student transcripts in some form. For example, the weighted GPA could appear on all transcripts alongside the unweighted GPA. Alternatively, we could do what Ashland High School in Oregon does, which is to provide a separate transcript to the University of Oregon showing only weighted GPA.

In terms of what courses should be weighted, I believe that the district should use the UC/CSU method, which will be fair and objective and provide students with a clear indication of where they stand for UC/CSU admission. Gunn currently uses their own methods for weighting grades, while Paly uses the UC/CSU method. This does not comply with our board policy or with our commitment to providing comparable educational opportunities at both Paly and Gunn.

In addressing this issue, I am keeping several principles in mind:

  • The district should put students first and should be mindful of the impact of district policies on student academic stress and social-emotional well-being.

  • The district should provide weighted GPAs to colleges and universities for those students who can benefit from them for admissions or scholarships.

  • Paly and Gunn should calculate and report weighted GPAs in the same way

  • Weighted GPAs should be calculated in a way that is objective and transparent, and that supports the district's educational mission, including offering a wide range of choices for students in our high schools.

In accordance with board policy, I will of course wait for Dr. McGee’s recommendation before reaching definitive conclusions. However, given the level of current discussion on the topic, I wanted to give you my current thinking about it and allow you time to reach out to me with your reactions. I’ll be holding an office hours on Wednesday, November 2, at Palo Alto Cafe on Middlefield from 5:30 to 7:00. Please feel free to come by, or send me an email at [email protected]

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