News


Palo Alto parents, students urge district to report weighted grades

School and district staffs disagree, arguing mental-health costs outweigh potential benefits

There was a stark difference in opinion at the Palo Alto Board of Education meeting Tuesday night on the value of reporting high school students' weighted grade point averages (GPAs), with parents, students and some board members defending students' right to scholarships and college admission, and school administrators arguing that the practice is antithetical to the district's efforts to change the tide on youth mental-health issues.

A district proposal to maintain the status quo of only reporting unweighted grades on students' official transcripts but to end a small difference between how Gunn and Palo Alto high school counselors report weighted GPAs to colleges and universities -- Gunn counselors automatically add the number in a counselor report section on the Common Application, while Paly staff does not -- struck an emotional chord with many in the packed board room.

Upset parents and students from both high schools urged the board to give students the choice to report their weighted GPA if they need it for admissions or to qualify for a merit-based scholarship. They disagreed with the district's perspective that reporting weighted grades will fuel unhealthy competition and academic stress, arguing that it is an administrative issue unrelated to those very present issues in Palo Alto.

Out of 27 people who spoke during the public comment section of the meeting, only four, all Paly teachers or staff, opposed weighted grades for their potential negative impact on student well-being.

While at least one board member and the high school principals have been looking into the practice for more than a year, it was one Paly senior's comments at a board meeting two weeks ago that brought the issue to the full board's and community's attention.

Maya Katz's unweighted GPA puts her at the cusp of qualifying for a four-year, $36,000 merit-based scholarship at one of her top school choices, the University of Oregon. The school is unique in that it will not accept a letter from Paly that reports her weighted GPA, but rather only looks at what is on her transcript.

She told the board at its Sept. 27 meeting that she felt like her "rights as a student have been robbed" after finding out about the difference in grade-reporting practices between Paly and Gunn. (Although a Gunn senior would face this same problem given the fact that the University of Oregon is not on the Common Application.)

While the schools have in the past and per the district's recommendation would continue to contact schools directly on students' behalf and send official letters reporting weighted grades when necessary, parents argued that this is not a solution. Their concerns also stretched beyond qualifying for scholarships to students' entry into desired colleges.

"No student should be deprived of their choices, to go to the schools they wish to simply because our school administration fails to provide his or her weighted GPA upon request," said Jenny Zhang, the parent of a freshman and junior at Gunn.

Gunn senior Shannon Yang asked the board to consider a sometimes overlooked issue in affluent Palo Alto of college affordability. She said her weighted GPA would qualify her for some scholarships but her unweighted GPA would not, urging the board to "keep these doors open" for students.

Another Gunn senior said he will be one of three children in his family attending college next year, and is depending on his weighted GPA to qualify for merit-based scholarships to pay for what his parents cannot afford.

"Why would we put weights on the legs of our students?" said Trustee Camille Townsend, who among her colleagues was perhaps the most critical of the discrepancy between the two high schools. Townsend made a failed motion at one point during the meeting to add weighted GPAs to official transcripts and send them directly to colleges and universities.

She called the district's current practice "obscure" and "wrong," particularly if it is limiting students' ability to pay for the college of their choice.

Students also stressed the importance of incorporating their voices into the board's decision, and seeking more feedback from the many students who are unaware of the difference in grade-reporting practices between the two high schools. They said weighted grades would actually reduce student stress, because the bonus points can boost a lower grade.

Weighted grades rightly "recognize" students' hard work in more advanced courses, parents and students said -- a motivating rather than harmful factor when it comes to their academic and mental health and well-being, many said.

But Paly staff members who spoke painted a different picture, one of daily meetings with stressed-out and often high-achieving students, who feel "inadequate" compared to their peers.

"Personally I see the toll of this on students daily when I have to remind them that they are worth more than their numbers, that they are not inadequate," said Sandra Cernobori, a longtime college advisor at Paly.

Many schools themselves recalculate applicants' GPA to consider what they value most, Cernobori noted, from looking at only core classes to assigning different weight to AP and honors classes or even stripping the weighted grades.

Cernobori, along with Paly Principal Kim Diorio and Assistant Principal Vicki Kim wrote a "position paper" last week with the full support of teachers and staff recommending against the use of weighted GPAs. Gunn Principal Denise Herrmann told the Weekly that her school counselors agree, and that weighted grades should only be made available if required for scholarship reasons, though the full administration, faculty and staff have not have the opportunity yet to discuss the issue.

Longtime Paly guidance counselor Susan Schultz, reading from a statement signed by all of Paly's guidance counselors and school psychologists, worried that a decision to report weighted grades would mean the district's "message to students about trying to achieve balance between school work and extracurriculars becomes contradictory."

And Diorio, who leads the school's crisis-response team and works with the guidance department and wellness team on a regular basis, said it is those professionals who know best the negative effect weighted grades could have on students.

Board Vice President Terry Godfrey and board member Ken Dauber said they will look to the schools' professionals for guidance on their ultimate decision.

"A professional opinion with consistency and with a heavy dose of student voice -- that's what I'm after," Godfrey said.

Dauber later said he will not "second-guess our principal, school psychologists, school counselors and teachers at both schools who are telling us that to make weighted grades, GPAs a more salient aspect of how students understand their progress would have deleterious effects on the educational environment."

Townsend disagreed, arguing it is a board rather than site decision. She also took issue with the correlation drawn by Superintendent Max McGee and school staffs between weighted grades and increased stress, saying, "that is so unrelated right now."

Trustee Melissa Baten Caswell, who requested the agenda item Tuesday night, said the district needs to determine not only a policy moving forward long term, but a short-term solution for any current high school seniors who need weighted grades to qualify for a scholarship.

McGee said he would provide a short-term proposal at the board's next meeting on Nov. 1.

Board President Heidi Emberling agreed it is the "right thing to do to report both GPAs for current seniors." Longer term, the two high schools' practices should be aligned, she said, and it should be an automatic, uniform process for all students.

While the district must "be vigilant about practices that add stress to student lives," the stressors she hears about most are about homework and test and project stacking, not the presence of weighted grades.

Ankit Ranjan, Gunn's student board representative, agreed. He said many Gunn students feel like the conversation is a "waste of the district's time" and a distraction from the deeper issue: a deep-seated, unhealthy focus on grades, test scores and college admissions.

"We're talking about this in terms of culture," Ranjan said. "It seems like we want to have both the utilitarian benefits of having weighted GPA while also having the cultural benefits of not having that number."

Paly's board representative, David Tayeri, disagreed, arguing it is a small but "tangible thing that can be changed to help students."

Both students emphasized that many of their peers are uninformed about the topic and urge the district to fully inform students before seeking their input.

McGee said the district plans to hold student lunches and focus groups at Paly and Gunn, as well as at least one town hall meeting and online webinar to further discuss the subject.

How would the candidates vote?

As part of the Palo Alto Weekly's election coverage, we will be asking the candidates who are running for Palo Alto Board of Education how they would vote -- and why -- on significant issues that the board takes action on before November.

This week, the Weekly asked the three non-incumbent candidates how they would vote on a staff proposal to to report only unweighted GPAs on official transcripts, but that counselors provide juniors and seniors with a “short-form” letter that includes their weighted GPA and will provide an official letter to any institution that uses weighted grades as a qualifying criteria for scholarships.

Jay Cabrera:

Whether weighted grades are issued, all colleges know that Gunn and Paly operate on a very high level and will take that into consideration on admissions. I am supportive of diversity and creating unique educational experiences at different schools within the district. But this is not an educational issue; it is a simple administrative process, and should be standardized between the two high schools so it is done exactly the same for all students.

My primary focus would be to ensure that the colleges were getting the information they wanted, therefore I would side on having more information than less. ... This (the staff proposal) sounds fair to me as it will empower the student and family to ensure the information for each application will be included, without forcing anyone to have a weighted grade submitted when the institution does not require or want one.

Todd Collins:

Our priority has to be to put students first. We know at this point that some students are being disadvantaged, and many parents were concerned enough to come speak out on this issue.

In the short-term, we should report weighted GPA in a way colleges will accept. That short-term policy won’t affect student stress, course selection, etc., but it will help students right away.

To make a long-term decision, I'd want to see what similar districts do, and why, and more detail on how reported GPAs impact students’ admissions and scholarship chances. I'd also like to hear more from parents, students, and our education professionals.

It’s important, as a student board representative mentioned, that this issue not distract us from other sources of student stress, like homework loads, test and project stacking, grading alignment and teacher feedback. These seem likely to impact stress more than how we report GPAs.

Jennifer DiBrienza:

My priorities when considering this important issue include consistency between the school sites, attending to equity and ensuring that all students have access to any and all financial resources available to support them in college.

We cannot make a decision about the best policy to put in place until we have more information. The district is currently gathering data from a range of colleges to determine how they use the GPAs that are reported and what information is most useful to them. I look forward to learning the facts and am grateful for the wide-range of community input on this issue.

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Comments

123 people like this
Posted by frustrated parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2016 at 10:27 am

If a school chooses to offer Honors and AP classes they should then be Mandated to provided the weighted GPA as the students are taking a more rigorous course or courses.

If a school is Not going to provide the weighted GPA, then course selection should be lock step with all students working on the exact same playing field if the end game is purely your GPA.

To be penalized because the student takes a harder course and therefore score less than A is ridiculous.


120 people like this
Posted by Unfair
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 19, 2016 at 10:37 am

If APs and Honors are offered, then the district should be duty bound to report the weighted GPAs. If the district is truly 'worried' about increasing stress levels, then it should not offer APs or Honors. But to offer, allow/let the students put in the hard work, extra projects/homework, time and effort and THEN 'stiff' them of the weighted GPAs is unfair.....
NOT IN OUR SCHOOLS!!!


120 people like this
Posted by Weighted GPAs Are Helpful to Students & Families
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 19, 2016 at 10:45 am

Weighted GPAs Are Helpful to Students & Families is a registered user.

There is the simple, practical matter of college affordability. My former Gunn student (who sensibly took a few AP and honors classes that interested her, but did not load up on them) is attending a small, selective (but not highly selective) liberal arts college. Her weighted GPA earned her $20,000/year in merit scholarships. That is $80,000 saved over four years that makes it POSSIBLE for us to afford sending her to this school. She couldn't get into a UC because of the enrollment limits from Gunn. She is a hard-working, upper middle class Caucasian kid with a learning disability who gets no special preference in the UCs.

Affordability of college is creating a lot of stress. These kids have to compete with students from other districts who do provide weighted GPAs. Eliminating the weighted GPA will just make kids feel that getting a perfect A is all-important. Weighting the grade enables kids to take more challenging courses that they enjoy and not worry so much about getting a perfect score. Providing weighted GPAs might actually reduce stress.


12 people like this
Posted by Moot
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 19, 2016 at 10:46 am

Some of the AP classes are adjusted such that one only needs to get 80% for an A, 70% for B etc and some 75% for an A. I do believe this is a significant adjustment.


3 people like this
Posted by making sense
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 19, 2016 at 10:57 am

@Most,

That sounds like the most sensible approach I've read! Rather than getting "extra" weight to boost your GPA, you score a max amount and it's as easy to get an A on an AP class as it is in the lowest lane. There - you have what you want, full credit for your extra work without getting ridiculously high GPAs because of the "extra" weighted credit.

I saw this link to Paly's Campanile article from last October on another thread that was, for some reason, removed by the moderators: Web Link

The students final recommendation: "Ultimately, Paly should remain with its unweighted system, despite calls for a weighted GPA. Gunn should also make the move to unweighted GPAs, for the sake of consistency and the students."

If they switch to Most's proposal then it meets the spirit as well as the intent of grading and the article.


8 people like this
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 19, 2016 at 10:59 am

Lots of FUD here being perpetrated by Townsend and Caswell. In fact, any student can easily have weighted grades reported to any school. Although it hardly ever actually matters since schools look at transcripts to decide whether to admit students. It was interesting watching last night to see that most of the upset parents [portion removed] don't necessarily understand American college admission procedures.


26 people like this
Posted by outisder
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 19, 2016 at 11:04 am

At Paly, the Honors classes have not been slated on the official UC list for honors credit, so can they even give weight to their classes if they wanted to?

I think assuming your honors class has weight and then finding out it carries no weight would be very stressful. I think just getting rid of all honors classes and then allowing more ap classes would be better anyhow, because the ap classes are actually easier than the honors classes.

Another sure way to get more weight on GPA is to offer a few more community college classes that are interesting to all the kids. Cupertino has a program called college now where their seniors can take a few CC classes and get some college credit easily to save a bit of money on general ed. Foothill is so close, it would be nice to have at least 5 community college classes offered at each high school campus. These classes could spice things up a bit too and usually very well managed and well taught- It think nanotech is the only one now. Milpitas uses Evergreen college in a clever way to help the kids who may not be ready for ap classes but could take CC classses and get the same gpa bump up without the extra stress.


92 people like this
Posted by Kids have a *right* to a weighted grade
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 19, 2016 at 11:08 am

This is a crazy decision. The AP classes exist and the kids are taking them. The teens workload or stress would not change one bit if they were rewarded with a weighted grade. They would simply receive a weighted grade that would create more choice of colleges and offer access to scholarships - which parents *need*. Not everyone has a blank check for college tuition in Palo Alto.

It is the GPA that is horribly stressful as kids can barely make one mistake in a test, get ill at all - without a horrible consequence to their 'unweighted GPA'. Taking AP classes (if a weighted grade were awarded) reduces stress by allowing them to take control, work hard and increase their GPA. It makes sense to limit the amount of APs kids can do per year if workload stress is an issue. I believe Paly already does this. But it does not make sense to offer APs and then not reward kids with a weighted grade.

It's also a huge waste of resources for the school board to not make a quick and obvious decision. How much money will this consultation process cost? We are paying for this nonsense with our ludicrously high property taxes which are also affecting our ability to pay for college tuition. Please just *listen* to the kids and parents who are doing college application right now.

The colleges have their (admittedly very flawed) application criteria and it is up to schools and school boards to lobby for change there. The solution is not to remove reward for weighted grades which just increases stress for kids and costs for parents. That doesn't achieve anything.

It's good the school board is at least bringing things in line with Gunn but it has not gone far enough. Students who have taken APs have a *right* to their weighted grade if they have earned it. Period!! Someone needs to consult a lawyer and see if there is a case here. Any lawyers out there I'd love your comment.


26 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 19, 2016 at 11:23 am

I don't have a strong opinion on this particular topic. From what I understand, universities generally take this into consideration in the application process and accommodations can be made when they don't.

That said, our experience has been that the Paly administration is frequently distracted by their trees (particularly their exotic, well-manicured, and expensive ones) at the expense of the forest. We have gotten tired of hearing the lofty rhetoric in light of the disconnect between those ideals and actual practice.


32 people like this
Posted by Weakly Reader
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 19, 2016 at 11:34 am

What about the stress that comes from working hard and not knowing whether you are going to be able to attend college due to financial considerations?


13 people like this
Posted by Midtown Citizen
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Midtown Citizen is a registered user.

AP classes were never intended to be GPA enhancers. They were solely intended to prepare students to take the AP exam, on which a high enough score gets the student college credit (which is a scam perpetuated by The College Board - no class taught in a public high school comes anywhere close to the intellectual rigor of a freshman class at a 4 year college). The payoff for the AP student is supposed to be getting a high score on the exam and that BS college credit.

A student is qualified to take an AP class if they've shown they possess the intellect and study skills necessary to perform at a higher-than-"normal" level in that high school subject. Assuming a subjective thing like grading can be rigorously standardized, an "advanced" student's performance in an AP class should be equivalent to a "regular" student's performance in the same non-AP subject. Instead, AP students can actually slack off and get the same grade as a "regular" student who worked harder. AP grade inflation goes from 25% at the A level, up to 60% inflation for a C-. I'm also fairly confident that most AP classes tend to grade up.

AP classes should exist only as enhanced learning opportunities for accelerated, motivated students. A school that is offering a "merit" scholarship based solely on reported GPA is idiotic: what is to stop a bunch of smart parents from organizing their own charter school that guarantees students will graduate with a 4.0? If you are smart parent, move to a low-performing school district where teachers are so starved for an actual willing and able student they'll throw As at your kid. The GPA-driven high school experience in Palo Alto (and similar school districts) needs correction; inflating grades is not an educationally-sound solution.


94 people like this
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 19, 2016 at 12:39 pm

It is ironic to see a few "education experts" kept claiming they represent the views of overall community while the majority of parents and students are speaking against the proposal to only issue unweighted GPA.

Even worse, many board members or candidates are on the fence and not willing to support the parents and students.


56 people like this
Posted by Necessity
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Necessity is a registered user.

With a 4- yr degree being an absolute minimum necessity now, and advanced degrees preferred by most employers, it is absolutely imperative for the future economic health of the U S that qualified citizens get degrees from good schools, preferably well-known ones.

As a plus, if an employee has an advanced degree, preferably a PhD, from a good, well- known school, that employee is FAR less likely to be laid off during tough economic times-- as well as far more likely to be able to change jobs with ease!

Asian nationals already know this, as do their governments! China and Singapore will pay for qualified students to get advanced degrees from foreign universities--especially American ones.

If weighted grades help get an American student into a good university--JUST DO IT!


55 people like this
Posted by neighborA
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 19, 2016 at 1:45 pm

Let the college market decide instead of somebody's view on the matter. The competition is there all the time in the real world. Sheltering students from competition is not healthy. How about focusing on teaching them how to deal. And developing a streamline reporting process will definitely reduce students' stress level on following up individually.


47 people like this
Posted by APs and stress
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2016 at 1:59 pm

Certain administrators and board members suggest that APs themselves, let alone weighted grades, are a detriment to student mental health. They do so with little to no evidence - cherry picked evidence at best. Gunn students are overall less stressed and more engaged than Paly students according to Challenge Success's own study results. Beware of (barely) hidden agendas - like doing away with APs altogether.


71 people like this
Posted by Paly parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 19, 2016 at 2:11 pm

Paly parent2 is a registered user.

This issue is being overcomplicated and shouldn't be. If kids miss out on college places and scholarships over this issue the school board and schools should be held accountable. You would quickly find if they faced the consequence of this bizarre policy then weighted grades would be offered and this would be a total non-issue. Surely they don't feel so strongly about this technicality that they'd want to pay for the missed scholarships for example.

Also I've heard the 'opinion' of the counsellors and principle who argue against offering weighted grades. But they have presented no evidence backing up the claim. I think it's safe to assume they can't (unless it was totally bogus) because it is a completely subjective point of view. Teen mental health is extremely variable and the result of multiple factors. You couldn't possibly pin it entirely on awarding weighted grades or not.

But you can show evidence (it was presented last night) that 'not' awarding weighted grades makes kids lose out on school college places and scholarships. The schools and school board may well be causing legal risk by ignoring these families.








11 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2016 at 2:55 pm

My 9th grader took an AP science class last year through an accredited outside vendor, but only got regular credit for it - because, there was no interest in taking the test, the goal was the more challanging and interesting class. So, the transcript says A for regular biology, but the course was AP. Said kid had little to no stress about the class, in fact, having an intellectually interesting class made for less stress. Might take the test this year.

The AP classes aren't the stressful thing, it is the district culture and insane focus on grades promulgated by the grading system. No need to blame colleges, parents, and other bogeymen.


12 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2016 at 3:24 pm

Oh, i.e., the AP class grade wasn't the result of a litany of grades along the way, it was the result of a holistic evaluation at the end based on clear expectations. I highly recommend that.

The district should report the grades the kids earned, there is no point in hurting their chances.


35 people like this
Posted by Justaparent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 19, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Kids are talking about the way that our district administration choose to reduce stress: to repaint school, to remove zero period, to remove wGPA, etc. How about "listen to students" approach? How about "start cleaning your own house first"? Do not give multiple tests during the homecoming week, make sure that material coverage and teaching style is comparable between classes, give tests that reflect covered material, etc. maybe then our kids wouldn't need the new school color.
How tired I am to hear that APs should be for personal challenge and "don't think about numbers". Why one or another? Why not both?


5 people like this
Posted by former PALY parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 19, 2016 at 7:46 pm

Some very high quality schools have dispensed with AP courses; they are hackneyed nowadays and often taken to overload (to get one step ahead of the other guy/girl) -- to compete with same school peers in college admissions on the paper record. See: Castilleja, Phillips Exeter Academy and others back East. The original notion of APs has been twisted; become an example of kids/parents trying to out game their classmates. Sad.


15 people like this
Posted by Jet pilot
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 19, 2016 at 9:21 pm

Sorry that I could not make it to the Board meeting to support the Administration. The academic arms race and pressure on kids in our community is insane. In addition to eliminating reporting of "weighted grades," the schools need to restrict maximum number of AP classes kids can take to 2 per year. Since parents are the biggest part of the problem, the current system of letting parents "sign off" on their kids taking insane numbers of AP classes is "allowing the inmates to run the asylum." It may not be popular with a lot of parents or over-achieving students, but the Board needs to support these important changes. The pressure kids in our community feel to get accepted at an elite university is very misguided and is not a recipe for success or happiness in life. Had dinner with President Hennessy recently. He has actually seriously suggested changing Stanford's admission to a lottery where all kids with a certain minimum GPA and SAT/ACT scores would be considered.


23 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 19, 2016 at 9:31 pm

I agree with justaparent that there are lots of small things that the administration could do and should do to reduce stress.

The biggest one would be for classes to allow students to throw out their worst test result for their final grade. Some kids have a bad test early and spend the whole quarter stressed trying to dig themselves out of a whole. For other students there is the worry that a bad final will endanger their grade for the semester. Take a page from many courses at Stanford: drop the worst test result. The overall grade will more accurately reflect performance as sometimes bad test results are outliers.

The second one would be to make sure that students do not have more than two finals in one day during finals week. Because of bad luck some students might have three finals in a day, which is extremely stressful. At Stanford any student who has more than two finals scheduled in one day can change their final time to a different day.

Third, Paly should change its policy towards students who are in AP or honors classes and decide to drop down a lane during the semester. At present the Paly policy is students who drop a lane carry their grade with them to the lower lane. The student is stressed because they couldn't do the top lane work, but then are stressed because they start the lower lane with their bad grade from the top lane. This makes no sense, is gratuitously stressful, and contradicts everything they say that grades aren't that important.

As for those who say that the AP and honors classes at Paly grade on easier scales, or involve the same or less work than other classes, they should read the student evaluations and surveys. APUSH is ranked as the most time consuming class at Paly, twice as time consuming as the second hardest course, and five times as time consuming as non AP US history. Analysis Honors math is the second hardest course based on time commitment. This isn't my judgment - it's the students' judgement. So it does raise the question - if you are doing anywhere from 2 to 5 times the work of lesser courses, should you get the same amount of academic credit?


34 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 19, 2016 at 9:55 pm

to jetpilot

Hennessy's remark sounds exactly like something a former president of a university would say. He had sixteen years to propose such a major change, and I can assure you that it was never raised once. And there is a reason for that - Stanford faculty and alumni would overwhelmingly object. Stanford admissions takes more into account than GPA and board scores and they should. As a faculty member of almost twenty years, I think admissions does a great job at admitting terrific kids, who are more than their GPA and SATs.

I think Palo Alto high school students are stressed by the college admissions game; a lot of expectations are put on them by parents, but they also put a lot of expectations on themselves. There is a lot that the district could do to minimize stress. I suggested several actions above. These all address palpable sources of stress. I don't think that arbitrarily telling a Paly kid that they can only take 2 APS a year is going to reduce stress. All that would do is increase the stress of their performance in the 2 APS that they are allowed to take. It seems to me that if you want to reduce the stress of AP classes then weighting the grades makes a lot of sense.

If you take the time to search for research on weighting grades, you find that there is a lot of hypothesizing and very little empirical research. The papers that the superintendent cites are long on supposition and very short on data. And honestly the testimony of the faculty and principal of Paly were long on emotion and claims that they know what's best for the students and nothing based on data. One of the two empirically based papers that I did find on weighting grades demolishes the often stated claim that if you weight grades from AP classes, then it will create an "arms race" as everyone will take AP classes to get the higher grades. Its a neat paper from Texas schools with lots of evidence from schools that went from unweighting APs to weighting them. No effect on enrollment in AP classes, which actually shocked the researcher and disproved her hypothesis.


60 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 19, 2016 at 10:14 pm

Parents and school administration staffs supporting to report only UWGPA are making the judgement without studying/researching on facts, numbers and data. They think they understand better on college admission, but they DO NOT, actually no one could fully comprehend the process. University of Michigan, one of the top public university, only takes the GPA (regardless WGPA or UWGPA), on school transcript and does not recalculate. 3.7 is said to be the magical cut-off line to pass the first cut screen....felt sorry for those past PAUSD students whom have applied U of M with UWGPA at 3.7 border line, that if school could provide WGPA with only 1 or 2 AP classes taken they would have an opportunity to at least past the first cut and enter the so called holistic review process. U of M, in addition to University of Oregon, may not be the only couple colleges there with such practices. The bottom line is that our students at PAUSD have been put in disadvantage on their college and scholarship applications. The poorly implemented UWGPA only policy in PAUSD needs to be changed.

Link to the U of M report:
Web Link


21 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2016 at 9:24 am

Regardless of decisions this year, they should be transparent about their stance with Freshman parents. and students. They should be told.

Palo Alto needs to offer both weighted and unweighted gpa so students can use whichever one suits them. They need to respond to the colleges and families. Every advantage that can be taken should.

There should be onsite opportunites for CC classes for kids who need and want something in between regular classes and college ap classes to avoid an even bigger achievement gap and choices for smart kids not wanting to play the ap game. Either that or just assign honors credit to all the classes , give them all high gpa's and let them fool around like they should anyhow. Honors pe. honors life skills, honors auto shop...honor band and choir. Why not if other schools are?


65 people like this
Posted by Angry parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 20, 2016 at 10:25 am

It is interesting to see that "Out of 27 people who spoke during the public comment section of the meeting, only four, all Paly teachers or staff, opposed weighted grades for their potential negative impact on student well-being."

I feel sorry for Paly students and families to have to work with such group of school admins who don't listen to their students' voice, and create more stress in the already super stressful college application process.

Providing weighted GPA on transcript is a common practice, over 75% high schools in the nation provide it for their students. There is absolutely no evidence showing wGPA will create more stress for the students. Actually all students talked in the meeting said that it is the opposite. Why Paly staff thinks that they know better than the students themselves, and the parents who no doubt will do the absolute best for their children.


69 people like this
Posted by PA parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 20, 2016 at 10:56 am

It is outrageous that school district and school admins always use stress as an excuse. If they are really serous about student's stress level and well-being, they should work with their staffs and teachers to make sure they do well on what they suppose to do. For example, an administration mistake caused hundreds of Gunn students to have to retake their AP tests in May of 2016, and caused the pass rate of those AP tests dropped about 8-10%. Only affected students and related families know how much stress that added to their life.

WGPA is another example of school not doing the right thing. Without reporting WGPA put students' opportunity to be accepted by the right schools, merit based scholarship etc at risk. They earned those extra points by doing lots more homework, projects, and taking harder exams, it is only FAIR to give them the extra point, and show that on their transcript.

School district, please do the right thing, and provide the support that our students need and deserve!


42 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 20, 2016 at 11:33 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

Would the Weekly please report on the position of the candidates running for the Board? This issue alone would inform which candidate I would vote for.


36 people like this
Posted by Wrong Tree
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 20, 2016 at 11:55 am

Maybe that's why my son didn't get into U of Michigan! Students will take AP classes anyway to keep their applications competitive. If the students are taking AP classes, they should get credit for all that extra stress and rigor. Why make the colleges recalculate? Why make their jobs more work?

The stress is coming from the deficient teaching of AP teachers who think their students can figure it all out on their own and then they slap them with difficult tests, having not covered everything. It's quite a feat to get an "A" in an AP class, so why not allow our students to have competitive applications?


46 people like this
Posted by weighted is better
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 20, 2016 at 12:25 pm

This came up at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach last year. It is a member of the 21st Century Consortium of Schools that PAUSD is also a part of. A senior advised the district that her unweighted GPA was going to cost her a scholarship at University of Oregon. The scholarship there is $36,000.

Mira Costa district staff confirmed that was true and discovered other colleges whose policies put students without weighted GPAs at a disadvantage for scholarships. Wanting to “make sure our students are not harmed,” Mira Costa changed its policy and now weights GPAs.

Ditto high-performing school districts on the East Coast:
-Fairfax County School District -- unweighted GPAs have a direct, adverse impact on merit-based scholarships and honors placement decisions
-Greenwich -- weighted GPAs provide an advantage to a student for scholarships and college admissions
- Milford NJ -- weighted GPAs are better for scholarships, college admissions, and even NCAA athletic eligibility.

As the Weekly pointed out, Silicon Valley high schools weight GPAs too (Fremont Union is the exception).

That is likely why 3 out of 4 high schools in the US weight GPAs. NACAC Counseling Trends Survey / State of College Admissions


5 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 20, 2016 at 1:48 pm

Marc Vincenti is a registered user.

I hope that our high schools will take major, true, consequential steps to ease student stress by slimming class sizes, giving students a nightly voice in their homework amounts, requiring guidance counseling before enrollment in multiple APs, replacing social-media dependence with stronger social fabrics on campus, curbing the relentless grade-reporting, and undoing academic fraud.

These measures go to the core of what is stressing our high-schoolers, and this is the program of Save the 2,008--the community initiative now supported by 524 parents, teachers, PAMF physicians, realtors, authors, Stanford professors, LMFTs, faith leaders, and more.

You can add your voice to our chorus for school change at: savethe2008.com


4 people like this
Posted by outisder
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2016 at 2:04 pm

wrong tree.

The ratio of direct instruction at school and the level of evaluation is not always easy to manage for students or teachers. This is a major cause of stress that could be alleviated with who know what? At least listen to parents and students and try to react. This seems like a very static problem. Teachers having to deliver college level work that are not college professors need more help to streamline these classes. This is horrible situation for the kids and the teachers. Kids should not take the lumps on this. It is not their fault their teachers are not college professors.If they can get an 80 percent in this situation as highschoolers they should get a gpa bump up and a parade with cupcakes after.


58 people like this
Posted by Do the right thing
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 20, 2016 at 2:17 pm

I listened to the speeches given by Paly admins in Tuesday's school board meeting, and are wondering why I would pay my super expensive property taxes and also donate to Paly to have them hire such low quality staffs. I wonder their motivations of against providing weighted GPAs. Will that cause more work on their ends? will that make them resubmit college application packages that have already been sent out? or is that because they have to agree with their bosses?

Voices from students and parents are clear and loud, listen to them, and do the right thing! provide the weighted GPA on student's transcripts!


13 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2016 at 5:26 pm

"If you take the time to search for research on weighting grades, you find that there is a lot of hypothesizing and very little empirical research"

District culture is far too reliant on using data to further personal agendas and even vendettas for anyone who even once had the teeniest ability to incorporate data, logic, and research into their decisionmaking to actually do so. Maybe the amount of stress the kids are experiencing isn't dropping enough and they think they need to just do something - and of course, they are immune from using data, logic, and facts to pick the most sensible things to do. Hence this proposal which is just plain misguided and mean to hardworking students, and @Do the right thing's spot on observation.

How much stress APs cause has more to do with how they are taught than on the fact that they are APs.

Good luck getting them to change based on research. What parents will need to do is get together a group of parents who are either very famous or who have MDs, and get them to present the research. Then, and only then will people like Baten Caswell listen. They make status-based decisions - if you want them to do the right thing, you have to play their game. If you don't want to play their games, you have to change the rules, and parents seem unwilling to do that. There it is.


47 people like this
Posted by Don't kill students right
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 20, 2016 at 6:32 pm

While I was listening to Maya's statement this Tuesday I was heartbroken. She said her right was robbed. Yes, she was right. Why is such difficult for her to have a Weighted GPA on transcript to get the scholarship? Her issue is just a corner of the iceberg of scholarship and admission. I am not sure know how many students and families’ applications are buried in hundred and thousands of applications. U of Michigan and U of Colorado and more are not re-calculating weighted GPA. Currently, the PAUSD does not even have a short term solution for Maya's case. What made it even worse is to propose so called "two points" proposal for the alignment between Gunn and Paly. This "two points" proposal is what Paly currently has which makes Maya and her family are suffering. I don't really know what the district is thinking. Though the superintendent said he will drive to Oregon can we use our taxpayer money wisely and efficiently? Come on, we are in silicon valley. Is it very difficult to have a weighted GPA on the transcript at students’ request as Gunn’s current reporting policy? Just click a button in the computer. Yes, both schools need to be aligned toward Gunn’s current policy but not the other way.
What made me most disappointed is one the board members said on Tuesday meeting (10/28/2016) “Maya’s case is little”. I can’t believe what I heard. If Maya was her kid would he think it’s little? Ironically, this board member sent his son to a private school NOT in PAUSD. Furthermore, his son started math class outside of the school and his son already took calculus at the 9th grade. Obviously, his son is quite advanced. Thus, it’s legitimate to think his son has taken many AP classes in school. In contrast, he promoted the idea of “closing gap”, only limited AP allowed in PA. Why didn’t he promote “closing gap” in his son’s school? A typical politician! You can be a politician. But pls do NOT kill our students’ right. Their weight GPAs need to be shown on the transcript as needed.


35 people like this
Posted by Angry voter
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 20, 2016 at 8:14 pm

I am not going to vote those candidates who chose to support the uwgpa only proposal. Those paly admins/counselors should be fired.


31 people like this
Posted by Yes on WGPA
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 20, 2016 at 8:34 pm

I am for weighted GPA. Students earn it with their hard work.

The source of stress for students is not taking the AP classes itself. The stress is from some AP teachers don't teach. School board should focus on hiring more qualified AP teachers.

The fact is that MOST high schools in this area
reports weighted GPA( except Fremont union ).


45 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 20, 2016 at 8:37 pm

I attended the board meeting on 10/18. The board meeting mainly discussed two topics: 1) PAUSD SAT/ACT/AP results, which pointed out the great academic success is the result of school teachers’ efforts, students work ethic, and parents support. 2) Two-point Plan for Alignment on Grade Reporting (aka weighted vs. non-weighted GPA) that all students and parents spoke in the meeting support weighted GPA.

First of all, I want to say I am so impressed and proud of our school district students – they voiced their opinions in a way with deeper and more logical thoughts than many adults. I learned a lot from these students. My child couldn't make it to the meeting but I had a discussion with him and his points are: 1) students should be fairly awarded in grades for their efforts. 2) school should make weighted GPA available to all universities for all students. 3) school should find out effective solution to help student cope with stress, for example availability of quality counselors.

As a parent, I support WGPA. Maybe my child won’t need the ‘weighted’ if he can keep his straight A. But I’d like to see his efforts being rewarded. I have never pushed him to take honor or AP classes. As a matter of fact, when I heard Chemistry Honor is difficult, I asked him if he should take an easier one. I do support him on his decision. And when I met the Chemistry Honor teacher at the back to school night, I was glad my child chose his class – he didn’t talk about homework policy; instead he talked about his teaching philosophy that I highly appreciated. I wish my child could learn a lot from him beyond chemistry. My child is taking and will take more honor and AP classes, not for the ‘weighted’ but for his own passion and enjoyment. Every day in our home I observe how much efforts he is passionately putting into his class work. I would be grateful if the grading system could recognize those efforts.

Only a parent can truly understand what it means students “are worth more than their numbers”. From the moment struggling to get up in the morning, dealing with 7 periods, to school sports, concerts, homework, and even the late night board meeting to worry about things that they are not supposed to worry. Can the system just at least give them a fair number, especially that number matters for their college application? It is so easy to say “Many schools themselves recalculate applicants' GPA…”. To a parent and student, it’s only the school he/she interested matters, not the “many”.

As a professional (although I’m not working in high school), I support WGPA. I believe the most important goal of the education is to prepare next generation successful adults. The success in real world requires passion and work ethic. And to be honest it’s normally very stressful as well. Successful people usually love what they do, because they are goal oriented and they enjoy the process, and hopefully results and awards are coming along as well. Companies reward individual performance.

The Challenge Success “Stanford Survey of Adolescent School Experiences Report” (Web Link), in my opinion, painted a comprehensive, data informed picture about students’ daily life. Both Guun and Paly are members of Challenge Success. I was able to find the 2015 report for Gunn High School, but not Paly. In this report, I see majority students have the opportunities to accomplish what they need or want to do and they are proud of their accomplishments: 33% were proud of their extracurricular accomplishment other than sports (performing arts, community service, visual arts, club activities, student government), 21% were proud of an academic accomplishment, 20% were proud of an accomplishment in sports, 7% social accomplishments, 10% were not proud of anything. These numbers look balanced and healthy to me – students got to choose what they are able to accomplish and feel proud of that.

The report also shows students are not getting recommended hours of sleep, which I believe definitely not good for their health. Since a common perception about this issue is students have to stay up late to do homework, I carefully read the report several times for relevant evidences. And I noticed these points: 1) students reported mean=2.85 hours doing homework while they are multi-tasking on listening to music, emailing/texting, social networking and so on. 2) “Overall homework load: There were no significant differences by student gender, ethnic background or the number of AP/Honors courses”.

I do believe the administration wants to reduce student stress. But in my humble opinion, I think they are going about it in the wrong way. Firstly, the administration should try to understand the “stress” based on data and reports like the one above. Secondly, Let’s face the real world honestly. It is competitive and seems becoming more hectic every day for everybody. The best way to cope with that is to improve efficiency and reduce bureaucracy. The right among of stress is the way to grow and succeed.

“It is ironic to see a few "education experts" kept claiming they represent the views of overall community while the majority of parents and students are speaking against the proposal to only issue unweighted GPA.”

It’s sad to see “Even worse, many board members or candidates are on the fence and not willing to support the parents and students.” It is election year. It’s time to change that.


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Posted by Recalculate GPA
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 20, 2016 at 11:49 pm

Palo Alto Parent, That's not what U MI said here: Web Link (start at 13:17). They recalculate GPA.


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Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 21, 2016 at 12:09 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Recalculate GPA - UM said they stopped recalculating back in 2009. Maybe they reversed themselves, but this video is the only place I've heard that they still recalculate.

Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by curious parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 21, 2016 at 6:43 am

Agreed with john_alderman. This video is the only place showed U of Michigan still recalculates. To be sure, can any PALY staffs provide any written documents?


21 people like this
Posted by PA parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:08 am

@Recalculate GPA UM is just an example of colleges that may not recalculate WGPA. Even though they do now, which I am not sure, it doesn't guarantee that all colleges/universities recalculate.

It is reasonable to assume that our school knows the difficulty level of our classes, and could assess our students' achievement better than colleges/universities do. Why do we have to rely on colleges to recalculate GPA? Students' hard-earned WGPA is in our school system already, why not just provide it?!

Both high schools in PA claim that they want our students' life less stressful. Apparently, this WGPA/UWGPA issue cause lots lots of anxiety and stress among our students and families. Why is it that difficult to click a button and put the WGPA on students transcript, and remove all the problems, hurdles associated with it, and let our students and families focus on more important things in their busy life.


23 people like this
Posted by 994
a resident of Barron Park School
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:24 am

1. I urge the community media to conduct a survey to know what the students and parents' opinions about WGPA issue.
It's the open communication that makes the community better, not by the decision of a few people who controls the board. The decision will have strong impact on the future students.

2. Can PALY provides numbers and data to let us know the difference of weighted and unweighted GPA on students' life and degree of happiness? Please let us know why WGPA is a wrong policy that 75% of the high schools in US are using it should follow PALY.

3. Closing gap means more students are offering the same opportunity and resources to catch up not pulling down the efforts of students who wants to learn more or limiting their opportunities.
If AP courses are offered, what WGPA is a side product of the students' effort. High school students know more about what they want than adults think. Are we in a society that encourages embracing challenges?

4. Dig out the true hope of the students!
They want better quality of teachers and balanced course structure. Please help fix the real problems not the superficial ones.

5. Listen to the community. Offer options and flexibilities.
We can't teach the children by saying, "We're open. We welcome your ideas" while shutting door by saying "The decision is made." We're not just preaching our values.


20 people like this
Posted by A PA mom
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:34 am

Support WGPA!
Encourage options!
Embrace open communication!


12 people like this
Posted by What?
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:45 am

@994

WELL SAID!

"closing the achievement gap" should not be done by artificially bringing down the grade of students taking harder classes. School should make sure that their teacher really teaches. In Gunn high school, not sure if it is same in Paly, some teacher never grade homework, and they never return graded tests back to students. Students never know what they did wrong, or right in the subject. Some powerful teacher claims "if a student get a C in my AP class, she/he will get a 5 in AP test". Why school allow teachers to do that! I guess that it is just easier to sacrifices students than change the teachers.




6 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:53 am

Do you think this will be cleared up by Nov. first for these bright, eager, well meaning kids by Nov. first so they will all have the same exact advantages of almost every other kid in CA-even kids in their own district????? One thing being overlooked is the amt of international students that apply to CA universities. I am sure that their counselors are doing everything possible to give them every advantage without hesitation or a year long study.


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Posted by Lance Michaels
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:54 am

Evidently stress can be greatly reduced if AP classes are balanced with abundant and entirely unstructured play time. Especially if that play is in an environment where the kids must manage the possibility of actual physical harm.
Web Link

An effort in that direction will make more difference to both mental health and college success than the decision about whether AP grades are weighted in the GPA report.


16 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2016 at 11:23 am



This whole things reminds me of the story the Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde. ( the kids being the prince)

This senior class has suffered more than most and done so very gracefully. They should not have to stand there and beg for what should already be theirs.


11 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 21, 2016 at 11:26 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Lance Michaels - helicopter parents have been superseded by helicopter administrators who are intent in meddling and micromanaging students. It is demoralizing, infantilizing, and probably causes a net stress increase.


31 people like this
Posted by WGPA ASAP, please.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 21, 2016 at 11:32 am

WGPA ASAP, please. is a registered user.

Make a decision ASAP, please. My second child, a senior, would like to know what the district is going to do because her first college applications are TWO weeks. It is stressful not knowing.

She would like a weighted GPA because her first choice schools consider that and most of the students she is competing with come from districts who report that.

Thank you in advance for reducing her stress by doing your job and making a decision that considers students' need and feelings in a timely way.


36 people like this
Posted by Greg Kostello - Gunn Parent
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Oct 21, 2016 at 11:43 am

I urge you to contact your school board representative and let them know how important this issue is to you and your children. Please be *polite* but firm in letting them know how you feel.

Here is a form letter you might use -

Subject: Keep current wGPAs reporting policy at Gunn - Reward Academic Excellence, Don't Penalize our Students

Dear (Their Name):

Weighted GPAs (wGPA) are critically important and in line with keeping with the tradition of academic excellence at Gunn. As parents of the PAUSD, we want to keep current wGPAs reporting policy at Gunn.

- wGPAs encourage students to take academically rigorous classes rewarding them for their hard work, while not penalizing students who may receive a lower grade.
- High GPAs are an important factor in getting into top-tier colleges and being considered for certain academic scholarships.
- Academic rigor is a reason why so many parents choose to have their children attend Gunn, and there seems to be scant evidence to make such a critical change.

Please support keeping the weighted GPA policy at Gunn. I think this is critical to our community and I vote.

Thank You.

(Your Name)

------

Wants to eliminate automatic weighted GPAs reporting policy at Gunn. Tell them this is misguided.

Terry Godfrey - tgodfrey@pausd.org, (650) 387-3210.
Ken Dauber - kdauber@pausd.org, (650) 906-4340
Max McGee (Superintendant) mmcgee@pausd.org

No confirmed opinion. Tell them to take a public stand for academic excellence and to support our children's opportunities.

Heidi Emberling -hemberling@pausd.org
Melissa Baten Caswell - mcaswell@pausd.org

Wants to keep weighted GPA policy. Send her an email, telling her how much you appreciate their support!

Camille Townsend - ctownsend@pausd.org (Thanks!)

New Candidates Running - Let them know how you feel and ask them to take a position.

Jennifer Dibrienza - dibrienza4schoolboard@gmail.com
Todd Collins - todd@toddcollins.org







20 people like this
Posted by Paly parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 21, 2016 at 12:09 pm

Paly parent2 is a registered user.

Thank you Greg Kostello - I am writing a letter today :)


30 people like this
Posted by Gunn parent1
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 21, 2016 at 12:56 pm

This incident gives us a rare chance to look into how school board recommendations/decisions are made. we need to demand a few clarifications:

1) School board decision-making transparency - How is such proposal got analyzed and proposed? do they talk to the community to find out the real problem? or just pop up ideas on the top of their heads?

2) Supporting evidence for proposal - A few PALY admins/staffs were invited to present their professional opinion. All we have heard is that they have a better understanding of our children. Where is the better understanding comes from if you have such overwhelmed opposition from both students and parents?

We voters need to demand more transparency on the decision-making process from the school board. Clearly we are not served by competent board members.


Like this comment
Posted by G Brody
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2016 at 1:12 pm

Is there really an enrollment limit for Gunn students at the UCs?


23 people like this
Posted by unbelievable, really
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 21, 2016 at 4:14 pm

Greg and Gunnparent1,

My take-away having just finished listening to the video: Townsend, Caswell, and Emberling pushed to do everything possible to support seniors wanting scholarships and the other 2 didn't.

Townsend was impassioned. Caswell offered extra district resources to Paly and Gunn to get students' weighted GPAs to colleges on time. Emberling also didn't want any senior missing out.

But Dauber and Godfrey deferred to the principals. Ken Dauber literally, giving his speaking time to Paly's principal [portion removed due to inaccurate citation of comments made.]

What else I found astounding: Paly's principal said that she asked the Superintendent to wait to bring this to the school board until AFTER this year's college applications were in. Sounds like she had NO interest in helping any of this year's seniors at all.

Same story when Townsend, Caswell and Emberling directed her to get this done. She said it's too late because some applications were already in. How much time could it take to type a 3-digit weighted GPA onto transcripts and mail them off to a handful of colleges who need them with all the extra help that Caswell offered her? Stonewalling.

Web Link at 3 hours/20 minutes






2 people like this
Posted by Clarity
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 21, 2016 at 5:07 pm

First, colleges don't want our weighted GPAs for *admission*, they want to recalculate them according to their internal formula which varies from campus to campus. Some out of state colleges will use the transcript GPA (weighted or not) to determine merit scholarships.

Second, my guess is that any weighted GPA reported would be the UC GPA since PAUSD grad requirements align to those. That means "unapproved" classes will be removed from the calculation. Remove PE, living skills, some CTE, academic support classes from the calculation and the weighted GPA could actually be lower than the cumulative GPA.


27 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 21, 2016 at 5:22 pm

@Clarity - Our schools can report any weighting they want - there's no rule. If another formula would be better for our kids, and is acceptable to colleges, we can use that.

Also, some colleges do use reported wGPAs. It is funny hearing people say "I checked with Stanford/Harvard/Duke, etc., and they re-weight" - the vast majority of our kids don't go to those schools. The bigger issue is out-of-state public universities, or other large schools, that have cut-offs "by the numbers."

Finally, many colleges use reported wGPA as a key criteria for both merit scholarships AND honors program admission. The latter is incredibly important for our kids, many of whom are highly qualified and able to access great programs at lower costs with public university honors programs. This hasn't been mentioned much, but it a very important consideration for our kids.


18 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 21, 2016 at 5:25 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Clarity - Some colleges recalculate some don't. Students are still incentivized to take more honors and AP classes, because it will help them with schools that do recalculate. There is no rational benefit to reporting unweighted GPA, and many students get penalized. So we need to fix this.


20 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 21, 2016 at 6:03 pm

1) Checked with my kid and told school informed them college will recalculate GPA - have students been told the truth? from the posts I read and Maya's case, it appeared not every college recalculate;

2) UoM is the school on our list, the 2009 publication said no GPA recalculation, and the 2014 video (event hosted by Paly) the UoM rep said they recalculate with an one sentence statement without elaborating the details, they recalculate for every applicants ? or at what stage of application they recalculate? or they've asked to align with Paly counselors?

3) I learned from the board meeting video on Oct 18, the WGPA does exit in the system, just Paly withhold the information and refused to send to University of Oregon on transcript thus jeopardizing Maya's college scholarship;

4) if the numbers (WGPA and UWGPA) are in the system, why not just report both so everybody will have a mind of peace in their college application? and let colleges to figure out how to use them. Its very strange that we paid our tax money hiring bunch of highly qualified professionals think they should pretend the numbers in the system do not exist ?!! and reporting them will increase student stress?


19 people like this
Posted by Support our kids
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:04 pm

While I applaud overall the district's desire to focus on student wellness and reduce overall stress, the position paper put out by the administration in opposition to reporting WGPAs is premised on all sorts of unsubstantiated assertions about a supposed link between reporting WGPAs and student stress. Such a link appears dubious at best. Kids all know that their grades are weighted - indeed, the school provides all students their weighted GPAs in conferences with college counselors during which students receive a transcript showing their WGPA. Students also know that colleges (including the UCs and CSUs) recalculate unweighted GPAs for their admission purposes. Thus, WGPAs are already part of the landscape of our students' college admissions process. Under the circumstances, it strains credulity to assert that simply reporting them externally (in addition to the internal reporting already happening) would somehow breed additional stress. To the contrary, the students who presented at the board meeting said the opposite - - Paly and Gunn NOT reporting their WGPAs was what stressed them out.

Even if there is any chance that reporting weighted GPAs to schools would help even one student either garner a scholarship or maybe more importantly, get into the college of his/her dreams, why wouldn't the administration want to help this?


23 people like this
Posted by Fascinated
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:19 pm

While I understand it's important to credit the opinions of our professional school administrators, i don't think that blind deference is either advisable or prudent. In fact, I view the absolute deference espoused by Members Dauber and Godfrey as a dereliction of their respective duties to oversee our high schools and be responsive to their constituents. These are elected officials after all. Their job is to ensure Palo Alto schools are operating optimally for the benefit of its students - not to simply permit the administration to implement policy and practices at their whim without questioning. What do we need a school board if they are just going to be rubber stamp?


23 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:29 pm

^^ Agreed. The administrators seems to have the balance wrong. They see a small, theoretical impact on student stress outweighing a substantial, tangible impact on student's college prospects and cost. We are hearing it from the students loud and clear - how weighted GPA is reported (or not) is hardly on their radar, and certainly not a big factor in course selection or stress.

I hope the administrators can listen and adjust their thinking, and help this issue go through easily.


16 people like this
Posted by PA parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 21, 2016 at 11:42 pm

Greg Costello put together a template, if you think that Gunn and Paly should report wGPA, it is not too late to make your voice heard, next school board meeting will be held on 11/1.

"
I urge you to contact your school board representative and let them know how important this issue is to you and your children. Please be *polite* but firm in letting them know how you feel.

Here is a form letter you might use -

Subject: Keep current wGPAs reporting policy at Gunn - Reward Academic Excellence, Don't Penalize our Students

Dear (Their Name):

Weighted GPAs (wGPA) are critically important and in line with keeping with the tradition of academic excellence at Gunn. As parents of the PAUSD, we want to keep current wGPAs reporting policy at Gunn.

- wGPAs encourage students to take academically rigorous classes rewarding them for their hard work, while not penalizing students who may receive a lower grade.
- High GPAs are an important factor in getting into top-tier colleges and being considered for certain academic scholarships.
- Academic rigor is a reason why so many parents choose to have their children attend Gunn, and there seems to be scant evidence to make such a critical change.

Please support keeping the weighted GPA policy at Gunn. I think this is critical to our community and I vote.

Thank You.

(Your Name)

------

Wants to eliminate automatic weighted GPAs reporting policy at Gunn. Tell them this is misguided.

Terry Godfrey - tgodfrey@pausd.org, (650) 387-3210.
Ken Dauber - kdauber@pausd.org, (650) 906-4340
Max McGee (Superintendant) mmcgee@pausd.org

No confirmed opinion. Tell them to take a public stand for academic excellence and to support our children's opportunities.

Heidi Emberling -hemberling@pausd.org
Melissa Baten Caswell - mcaswell@pausd.org

Wants to keep weighted GPA policy. Send her an email, telling her how much you appreciate their support!

Camille Townsend - ctownsend@pausd.org (Thanks!)

New Candidates Running - Let them know how you feel and ask them to take a position.

Jennifer Dibrienza - dibrienza4schoolboard@gmail.com
Todd Collins - todd@toddcollins.org
"


23 people like this
Posted by Rover
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 22, 2016 at 8:14 am

Thank you @gregkostello @unbelievablereally for breaking down the board members' positions and describing what happened at the meeting. I'm glad to know that Camille Townsend is standing up for students. It's hard to believe that this issue is being analyzed and decided in such an after the fact way. It seems obvious to me that weighting GPAs for harder courses alleviates stress rather than adding to it. BTW my Gunn junior tells me that all the "wellness" talk is superficial nothingness, and he would be much happier and less stressed if the school had more efficient lunch lines so that kids could get their food without wasting 15 minutes in line.


27 people like this
Posted by PA parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 23, 2016 at 7:47 am

Trying to figure out the true motivation of this UWGPA proposal, let's see the impact if this proposal is implemented

Impact:
1) The hard work of those students who chose to select APs will be punished
2) Our students will be put into a situation where their UWGPA is used to compare with WGPA from other schools (70% + are using WGAP)
3) Our students will lose opportunities on scholarships
4) Our HS admins and staffs will have less work to do
5) Supporters in school board will claim that they have reduced the gap between 'advantages' students and 'disadvantaged' students
6) Supporters in school board will claim that they have addressed an important issue to reduce the stress.

Questions:
1) Are we truely reducing the student's stress if so many students are worrying that their hard work got neglected?
2) Long term, with UWGPA reporting, will PA still stands out at the national level? the thinking to bring down the excellence and reduce the gap is utterly flawed.





20 people like this
Posted by Pls help our studetns
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 23, 2016 at 12:59 pm

One of the Gunn teachers posted on FB "40% of US schools don't offer GPA, and WGPA are not fair to those students." But the fact is that of the school districts in America, 75% of high schools send weighted GPAs and only Fremont school district in the Bay Area does not send weighted GPAs. For sake of fairness, AP class should not be offered at all in the nation. Before we stop AP class in the US I am not sure if Gunn should place ourselves in a disadvantageous position. The current Gunn reporting policy would provide an option and create more choice of colleges and offer access to scholarships which parents need. Not everyone has a blank check for college tuition in Palo Alto.
I went to the board meeting on 10/18 and found the students and parents unprecedentedly the support the status quo of Gunn high school. I believe this will continue to escalate to the entire community. Unfortunately, only four PALY staffs in the meeting had different opinions against parents and students thoughts. These staff members even claimed the full house parents and students do not represent the majority of parents and students. This one-tilt opinion reflected on the recent media i.e. Palo Alto Online is so robust that the school district and admin really have to pay attention and accommodate accordingly. My Gunn junior daughter always told me that the school district do not listen to the students. When she said this I was suspicious. But after seeing what happened on weighted GPA recently we, as parents, would have to agree with her. I would like to share one of the parents wrote here. She/He said: "BTW my Gunn junior tells me that all the "wellness" talk is superficial nothingness, and he would be much happier and less stressed if the school had more efficient lunch lines so that kids could get their food without wasting 15 minutes in line."


7 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2016 at 9:49 am

If you look at the UCop website, there is spot for figuring out weighted and unweighted grades. It states that to get honors credit, the class has to have an honors designation. This is for UC applications only. Students in the Fremont district and other too have designated honors classes listed on the UCOP website -each school has about 6-9 Honors classes for their kids to choose from and get up to 8 extra credits for. They can claim these when applying to UC because their counselors made sure the classes were on the UCOP doorways website. When they get to add those extra credits onto their applications, there is no stress, there is only happiness and a sense of accomplishment.


Like this comment
Posted by Paly parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 25, 2016 at 5:11 pm

Paly and Gunn parents have been invited to a meeting at Gunn November 1st at 8.30 am to discuss w-GPA.

We have also been told to look at this:

Web Link

It would be really helpful to have comments on the information presented by the schools and school board (at the above link) before the meeting next week in this thread.


1 person likes this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 27, 2016 at 10:45 pm

If you support Gunn to keep the current wGPA reporting policy, which gives out students option to report the wGPA on common apps, you can sign the following petition.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2016 at 6:38 am

In the article, it says McGee said he would provide a short-term proposal at the board's next meeting on Nov. 1."

I received an an e-mail from the PTA saying "Dr. McGee has requested the PTSA distribute his thoughful letter regarding the decision to cancel the November 1st Paly/Gunn meeting on GPA reporting on transcripts. The letter clearly communicates PAUSD will continue to support all of the students, and describes what steps will be taken to help this years (Class of 2017) seniors."

In McGee's letter it says "For this year we are not recommending changing the current practices for grade reporting at either Gunn or Paly. That said, we clearly want to assure that our seniors have the opportunities for scholarships this
year, so we are recommending that the district issue a formal letter, as soon as possible, on behalf of
each and every 2017 graduate who needs to have a weighted GPA for scholarship purposes. As for
schools that purportedly will not accept an official letter attesting to students’ WGPA from the school and/or
district, we will support our students whose WGPA, SAT and/or AP would make them eligible for
scholarships by providing additional documentation as needed and/or aggressive advocacy on behalf of the
student."

Is this going to help? and is this acceptable?


18 people like this
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 28, 2016 at 9:18 am

Why not just report both the weighted and unweighted versions on transcripts?


18 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 28, 2016 at 9:25 am

"Is this going to help? and is this acceptable?"

No. This is what the Univ. of Oregon specifically said they would NOT accept, and there are probably others. It has to be part of the transcript itself.

Why is the district so stubborn? Do what's needed and stop making an issue where there isn't one.


9 people like this
Posted by Georgette
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 28, 2016 at 1:24 pm

Max has issued his edict. Nope, PAUSD will not do what might actually help a kid. Who's surprised?


13 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2016 at 2:36 pm

I think that if Max's "aggressive" advocacy fails those students who would have gotten a merit scholarship, then the school district should provide matching scholarships to those students, and these scholoraships be funded by reducing the administrators salaries by a corresponding amount.

Max needs to have some skin in the game, and act with more urgency.

It about the students Max and you are failing.


2 people like this
Posted by Let's Not Pretend it's About the Money
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2016 at 12:08 pm

The estimated cost of attendance for a non-resident at the University of Oregon in 2016-17 is $49,392: Web Link . The U OR merit Summit merit scholarship mentioned offers $9,000 per year for out-of-state students meeting the minimum 3.8 GPA and 26 ACT score. That would reduce the cost of attendance to $40,392 which still exceeds the UC cost of attendance which is $34,200 for in-state students living on campus in the 2016-17 school year: Web Link
And, for students with demonstrated need, the cost of attendance will go down even further at UC. While students eligible for federal Pell grants can take them to any university, the Cal Grant can only be used in CA. These grant programs are for very low income students. For students whose income and assets exceed the Cal Grant limitations but still demonstrate need, the UC offers a middle class scholarship: Web Link.

And, many private colleges offer both need-based and merit-based scholarships for students that often make attending a private college far more affordable for a low-income student than attending and in-state or out-of-state public college--even having earned a Pell Grant and merit scholarship.

If this conversation was really about college affordability for students with financial need, families would be looking to stay in CA not apply to an out-of-state public colleges. Instead, the community is fueled by anxiety about "getting in" to selective colleges, thinking a weighted GPA will help when in reality, those colleges do a holistic review and often recalculate transcript GPA--weighted or not.


22 people like this
Posted by TiredofIt
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 29, 2016 at 12:32 pm

@not about the money - that's ridiculous. Maybe the student prefers to attend Univ of Oregon? Maybe she thinks she can attend the flagship campus there, but only make UC Riverside here, and thinks that's a better choice for her? Who the heck are you to judge the choices and financial situations of complete strangers?

The school district should be doing what it can to help every student achieve their goals - not its goals, or your goals, but their goals. It's about money. It's about choices. It's about supporting students and families.


16 people like this
Posted by hard to believe that Paly decided to fight instead of help
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 29, 2016 at 2:26 pm

Let's not pretend,

Your command of the intricacies of college aid suggests that you are a college counselor. If so, you know better than most that college is about fit and that the University of Oregon has great programs in architecture and journalism and neither UC Merced nor UC Riverside do. And of course even if one is qualified to be admitted at those UCs - there are no guarantees, which is why Paly students are advised to not only apply to the UCs. But it is interesting that you use the UCs as your example. They weight applicants' GPAs.

Several students spoke eloquently about the difficulties in paying for college at the last school board meeting. Listen to what they said - enlightening and dispels the myth that there are only two types of students here - those whose parents "made it big in Silicon Valley" and those who live paycheck to paycheck across 101. There are plenty of families who cannot afford to pay full fare for college here and do not qualify for needs based-aid.

You suggest merit based scholarships. Agreed. But they are harder to get at Oregon, Boulder, and other universities when PAUSD only shares unweighted GPAs.

Your point about selective college admissions is a red herring. The question before the school board is about SCHOLARSHIPS at NON-SELECTIVE colleges like Oregon.


2 people like this
Posted by PA parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2016 at 11:31 pm

For parents who think that all college will recalculate GPA at college application time, the truth is that many colleges DONOT.


But 51% of colleges do not recalculate students’ GPAs. For example:

 

-     Many colleges in the new Coalition for College Access consortium, such as University of Chicago,

Northwestern, Stanford, Pomona, Claremont McKenna, Columbia and others, do not recalculate applicants’

GPAs. 

-     Nor do large public universities like the University of Oregon and University of Colorado Boulder which

acknowledge that this often ends up assigning students who submit weighted GPAs a higher GPA in their

system than the GPA the college would record if the student had shared his or her unweighted GPA (for

students whose coursework includes at least one AP or honors course). For example, at Indiana

University in Bloomington the admissions office assigns a 4.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale to a student whose

weighted GPA equals or exceeds 4.0 even if she has Bs and Cs on her transcript.


16 people like this
Posted by hard to believe that Paly decided to fight instead of help
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 30, 2016 at 8:46 am

Let's not pretend,

You wrote: "Instead, the community is fueled by anxiety about 'getting in' to selective colleges, thinking a weighted GPA will help when in reality, those colleges do a holistic review and often recalculate transcript GPA." Based on PA Parent's post, you might want to check your assumptions. If Stanford doesn't recalculate GPAs, I suspect other selective universities like it don't either. How could they? They get 30-40,000 applications a year and only admit 2,000. There is probably an objective first review - GPAs and SATs - to get the 40,000 down to a manageable stack that gets the time intensive, deeper, more nuanced look-over.

But if, as you post, GPAs don't matter much in the holistic round, why is Paly fighting so hard to NOT share a number that ONLY seems to matter for scholarships at colleges like Oregon? Because Paly doesn't want students to get merit scholarships? I doubt it.

What this seems to be about is JUST to send a message to the University of Oregon and others like it that Kim Diorio, Denise Herrmann, and Dr. McGee don't like the way they do business. Never mind the collateral damage: students like the Paly senior who stands to lose a $36,000 college merit scholarship.

How else would you explain:

The Paly "Weighted GPA" position paper penned by Paly's Principal Kim Diorio, Assistant Principal Victoria Kim, and College Counselor Sandra Cernobori that's been blasted to students and parents: "there are some [high] schools that are challenging ...the college admissions business [including by moving away from] numerical grading practices...We believe that students are more than a GPA and as such, colleges should take other criteria into account when making decisions."

Paly's college counselor Sandra Chernorobi's additional statement to the school board and now also on the Paly website: "I recognize that a few out-­of-­state public universities will consider only the GPA on the transcript for scholarship consideration and that might mean some of our students miss out ... I must highlight the negative impact reporting weighted GPAs would have on the emotional welfare of all our students." Web Link

Dr. McGee's statement: "if the University of Oregon declines not to accept our letter [in place of the transcript] that contains the weighted GPA, they may lose some of our talented students" Web Link

How many high school Superintendents and Principals in America, or even the world, would decide that it is perfectly acceptable to use students as political pawns just to send the colleges these students want to attend - and who want to admit them - a message that the district's leaders don't like the way they do "admissions business"?

And then persist, despite fierce push back by parents and students who don't appreciate school leaders gambling with students' futures, with pushing an apparently, see posts above, ill-informed "we will change the world" agenda?



11 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 30, 2016 at 9:35 am

Agreed, @hard, it really is something. McGee seems to think he was hired to be an evangelist, not a school administrator. I'm sure the Univ of Oregon admissions staff put that quote from him on their bulletin board for a good laugh.


12 people like this
Posted by PA parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 30, 2016 at 10:06 am

@hard

Completely agree with you, Paly admin are not there to help students, at the end of the day, neither Paly admin nor Dr. McGee will change how colleges/universities do their business, only our students will suffer, either financially or emotionally.


8 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 30, 2016 at 3:07 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

The arguments against weighted GPA are absolutely absurd. In the position paper, Kim notes that they already share weighted GPA with students! So the district knows weighted GPA, they share it with students, so they know it, and many schools recalculate GPA, so they know it. So just about everyone knows it, but yet you refuse to PRINT it because thats what causes stress?

Ask yourself this, has the last decade of not printing weighted GPA been an effective strategy at reducing stress? Maybe time to try something different.

From the position paper:
"college advisors at Paly also share the CSU/UC weighted eligibility GPA with their students in their junior or senior appointments."

"Students in California are aware of weighted grades because the CSU and UC systems use a specific GPA that adds an additional grade point when students earn a C- or higher in specifically designated honors and AP courses from Paly’s CSU/UC approved course list."


3 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 30, 2016 at 10:58 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 30, 2016 at 11:19 pm

[Portion removed.]

I went to nothing but the best private schools in the country including top 5 boarding school from 5th grade. We had 2 hours/night in middle school.

We did not finish homework in class - we were too busy being taught and lectured by teachers.

"Students who choose to enroll in Advanced Placement, Honors, or accelerated courses should expect higher homework loads, but not to exceed an average of 15 hours per week," the updated policy reads. The board approved this policy update, along with several others, with no discussion as part of its consent calendar.
[Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 31, 2016 at 12:28 am

It's very, very simple. You send weighted grade letters to all schools until weighted grades are properly incorporated in standard school reports.

The colleges will or will not use it. Nothing is going to change that.

Weighted grades should start with 20-17-2018 school year. [Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Let's Not Pretend it's About the Money
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 31, 2016 at 10:49 pm

@Hard to Believe,

Ha! Ya, I was my daughter's college counselor. We couldn't pay full fare so I did the research. I agree with your point about finding a fit, but if money is a concern that means making compromises. There are lots of colleges that can fit students not just one perfect fit. If affordability is important, looking at an out-of-state public might not be the best choice--even with aid. I know what the conversation is supposedly about but read the posts here...rather than really talking about money and scholarships, the talk is about weighted GPA for ADMISSION.


Like this comment
Posted by Recalculate GPA
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 7, 2016 at 9:14 pm

@john_alderman - my guess is that U MI wasn't on the Common App in 2009 but they are now and do a more holistic admission review


2 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 11, 2016 at 11:50 am

Facts on UofM's admission can be found in the article below. Although they are more holistic, they appear to have time for a 15 minute empirical review that cuts 10% of 50,000 applications and then a deeper dive that lasts about 30 minutes, give or take on these estimates.

Based on this tell-all article Web Link, University of MIchigan admits about 30% of its students from a pool of about 50,000 applications (25,000 early). UofM reviews this 50,000 applications with at most about 25 full time reviewers who perform the initial screen to weed out about 10% of the applicants. Then, the remaining 90% (45,000 applications) is sent to 50 academic counselors who then read about 900 applications each, about 450 in early admissions and 450 after. If these counselors work every minute of a 40 hour week from November 1 to December 15, each application will receive a 32 minute holistic review, after the culling in a very short time by 25 full time readers, who have at most 16 minutes (since there are fewer than half of them to make the first cut). So, part lottery, part holistic review? Why not decrease the stress and help students get through the lottery, especially since the number of students applying to just UofM has almost doubled since 2008 (30K in 2009 and 50K in 2014)? Is UofM any different from other large public schools? What do you think? We are told some just run the numbers. We just don't have all the information yet.

Wondering about the more elite smaller schools? The story is different, but the same. This report from a Harvard Education School PhD candidate Web Link indicates that there is an initial culling in which about 3/4 of these schools first look to academic merit and minimal thresholds of achievement. Colleges and universities do holistic reviews, but students need to make the first "cut" to get the more holistic review.

As the number of students applying to colleges increases every year, colleges have to make quick decisions. They can't give everyone a holistic review, as much as they would like. The Gunn method hurts no one in comparison to the existing policy at Paly of unweighted and can help the 66% of our Paly college bound students (91% of our students attend college, including 2 year, within 2 years of graduation) who already take at least 1 honors or AP class now. Our goal should be to increase the number of students to 100% college bound taking those classes and make more classes available.



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