Should Palo Alto's high schools report weighted grades?

Debate over grade-reporting practices comes to school board Tuesday

Among the many differences, large and small, between Palo Alto and Gunn high schools is a discrepancy between how school counselors report students' grade point averages (GPAs) to colleges and universities.

Though both schools have long reported only students' unweighted GPAs on official transcripts, Gunn counselors also report students’ weighted GPAs -- which provide extra points for honors and Advanced Placement (AP) level courses -- in a school counselor form on the Common Application.

While Paly students and parents are concerned that this difference in practice between the two schools negatively affects students’ college options, particularly their ability to qualify for merit-based scholarships at some out-of-state universities, district and site administrators worry that weighted GPAs contribute to unhealthy academic competition and student stress.

At the request of trustee Melissa Baten Caswell, the school board will discuss the high schools’ grade-reporting practices at its Tuesday meeting instead of in January, when it was originally scheduled for discussion.

Backed with consensus from administrators, counselors and teacher advisors at the high schools, Superintendent Max McGee is recommending that the high schools continue to report only unweighted grades on transcripts, but that counselors provide juniors and seniors with a “short-form” letter that includes their weighted GPA.

Counselors would also inform students that the district will send a letter on their behalf to any institution that uses weighted grades as a qualifying criteria for scholarships, McGee proposes.

Reporting weighted GPAs would, McGee wrote in a staff report, contribute to a "Performance Arms Race," a "hyper-competitive culture and self-inflicted pressure to get As and to take as many APs as possible in order to get admitted to the 'best' colleges and universities," that the district has heard repeatedly about, particularly in the wake of several student deaths by suicide in 2014 and 2015.

"While we have mitigated this pressure through a host of programs, services, and actions ... we are in a highly competitive environment and do not want to make policy decisions or change practices that will increase the level of competition for grade points and consequently raise stress to unhealthy levels that will put some students at risk," he wrote. "Having invested over a million dollars in health and wellness at the high schools these past two years, it is counterintuitive to condone grade weighting that will raise academic stress and it is antithetical to our District 'Wellness and Safety' goal."

Weighted GPAs could increase students' focus on grades rather than learning, and could also result in students taking fewer electives, said McGee, adding that weighted grades could also disproportionately affect minority and low-income students, given the district’s goal to increase their access to advanced classes.

Most high schools in the area report weighted grades, according to the district, with the exception of the Fremont Unified School District.

McGee's report notes that the University of California and California State University systems recalculate all reported GPAs to give more weight to specific honors and AP classes. Most universities will also accept a letter from a student’s school that provides his or her weighted GPA if it’s not on the official transcript, he wrote. His report emphasizes that colleges and universities consider many other factors beyond GPA in their application processes.

The University of Oregon, however, is an exception to this rule. The university will only use the GPA on an applicant’s official transcript, and offers several merit scholarships with specific GPA cutoffs.

Taly Katz, the mother of a Paly senior applying to the University of Oregon, told the board at its Sept. 27 meeting that her daughter’s unweighted GPA is at the school’s threshold for a four-year, $36,000 scholarship for out-of-state students. She urged the board to discuss the issue now, rather than later in the year, in the hopes that any change could help current seniors.

Her daughter Maya Katz told the board that she felt like her "rights as a student have been robbed" after finding out about the difference in reporting practices between Paly and Gunn. She said that Paly students are not informed that their weighted GPA will not be reported when they sign up for AP classes. The lack of a weighted GPA could put her in a position to take on more student loans, she said, and ultimately affect her decision on where to go to college.

Maya’s school, however, staunchly opposes reporting weighted grades. With the full support of teachers and staff, Paly Principal Kim Diorio, Assistant Principal of Student Services Victoria Kim and college advisor Sandra Cernobori penned a "position paper" on the practice that draws a definitive line between weighted GPAs and a "culture of competition and stress."

Its potential negative impacts -- increased competition and an emphasis on grades rather than learning, among others -- far outweigh the positives, Diorio, Kim and Cernobori wrote. Diorio shared the paper last week with the school’s site council and parent-teacher association.

According to the paper, in the last 10 years, Paly’s college advisors have never needed to report a weighted grade for a student’s admission to any school. On the rare occasions ("less than 1 percent," they wrote) when a college will only accept a weighted grade, the school advises students to meet with their teacher-advisor and/or a college advisor, who will contact the college on their behalf. In the past, Paly has written letters or spoken directly with admissions representatives on the phone to report a weighted grade, the paper states.

The paper recommends ending Gunn’s practice of counselors reporting the weighted grades on the Common Application, stating that both schools’ guidance departments have agreed that "this is a step in the right direction for our entire school district."

"It is our belief that as both high schools continue to work on strengthening existing school cultures by focusing on wellness, redefining success and mastery learning, in tandem we will reduce the anxiety and fear that accompanies that college admissions process," the paper states.

McGee wrote in his report that he does not recommend changing reporting practices in the middle of the school year, but "absent any new policy or administrative regulation is eager to align practices for 2017-18 and beyond."

In other business Tuesday, the board will hear a report on the high schools’ AP, SAT and ACT results; a proposed board policy that would establish procedures for students conducting advanced research on human and animal subjects; and an authorization to solicit bids for renovation of a classroom at Paly.

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave. View the full agenda here.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Editor's note: This story was updated to correct the amount of a scholarship the University of Oregon provides to out-of-state students. The scholarship is $36,000, not $3,600.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


26 people like this
Posted by Straightforward is better
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2016 at 8:48 am

Our experience of a culture focused on grades rather than learning came from middle school here when college was not on the radar. Families in the BayArea are fighting to get into DTech where the kids face the same college applications yet somehow without the same stress.

Not reporting the weighted grade is just as likely to make kids more competitive as the other grades can't be made up for by an "extra credit" grade.

Any policy the district implements in which students' futures are more dependent on individually-generated information, in this district culture, is likely to create another way that kids with special needs or problems get slammed by favoratism, and at the least, hurt by mistakes. The district's systems for providing records is so notoriously bad, making atudents' futures hinge on a case-by-case provision of records and letters is likely to produce more stress, not less. When kids have so much on their plates, they have no idea the stress of trying to chase an administrator who already made their lives hell and disconnected from school throughout, to keep yet another important thing from getting lost in the shuffle. "Mistakes" are too easy to make and too easy to justify. (Oh, so sorry little Johnny lost his scholarship, it's not our fault, you should have made sure the letter made it to the busy admissions people by reminding your counselor 11 rather than just 10 times after being told it was sent...)

The district should make the process perfunctory and as simple as possible, i.e., they should supply the weighted grades. If they want to address a competitive culture, they should start with the school program and practices feeding it. A teacher at Gunn teaching AP environmental science transitioned to no homework and found the kids did just as well on the tests and were more engaged. The entire school needs a dose of that.

Any policy that leaves every child's record more exposed to corruption by staff mistakes, and requires more multi-step tasks from the kids to get done, is a bad idea and will increase their stress at the worst time. If the district has an issue with APs, they should address it directly.

23 people like this
Posted by casey
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2016 at 9:00 am

casey is a registered user.

If the school is calculating weighted GPAs for 1 student, then they should calculate them for all students. Why create friction in the process by making students obtain a letter from a counselor. However, schools can still calculate class standing by unweighted GPAs, which should assuage the administrators who are concerned about student competition.

44 people like this
Posted by Report weighted grades would reduce stress, not add to it!
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 18, 2016 at 9:02 am

Report weighted grades would reduce stress, not add to it! is a registered user.

High school in Palo Alto IS about the grades and building a "college resume", it is NOT about learning. Admitting that and helping students achieve the best grades they can would go a long way toward reducing stress. Not grading on a curve would also help a great deal, allowing students to be collaborative instead of competitive. There is no reason learning and good grades can't go hand-in-hand.

At the very least - there should be consistency between the schools.

9 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 18, 2016 at 9:21 am

I was on the side of not provided weighted grading, figuring there are multiple ways to calculate it and that it would just encourage kids to take too many APs.

However, not sure the current solution is so great. I have noticed that many are strategically taking the classes that give them the highest GPA and tells a story, avoiding hard APs (e.g. APUSH), taking the easy APs or not at all. Not to learn the most, but to protect their grades.

In addition, the arguments above reflect my experience with the administration. They don't or delay responses from kids and parents (reasonable parent emails and requests from all types of students). So, whatever is decided, it must NOT depend on a teacher doing something special for a particular kid.

19 people like this
Posted by Distraction From Budget Discussion
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 18, 2016 at 9:29 am

Hey why is this topic coming up now, coinciding with the budget discussion? Is it a distraction from an even more heated one where really $$$ is associated with those decision makers?

Good job!

23 people like this
Posted by Seen it before
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 18, 2016 at 10:02 am

Good point about the distraction. This issue is being spun up by a board member running for re-election, who is trying to create a wedge issue that she can use to energize her base and distract from past mistakes.

53 people like this
Posted by weighted is better
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 18, 2016 at 10:07 am

Lots of similar schools came out on the opposite side of Dr. McGee's recommendation on this.

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, not $3,600 as the Weekly reports.

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

Ditto other high-performing school districts like Fairfax County School District in MD (found that unweighted GPAs had a direct, adverse impact on merit-based scholarships and honors placement decisions), Greenwich CT (found that weighted GPAs provide an advantage to a student for college admissions and scholarships), and Milford NJ (found that weighted GPAs are better than unweighted ones for college admissions, academic scholarships and NCAA athletic eligibility).

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

As do, as the Weekly points out, high schools in Silicon Valley (Fremont Union's are the exception).

16 people like this
Posted by transparency
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 18, 2016 at 10:46 am

It's about more than budgets and being re-elected for Board member Caswell. Caswell has a very transparent reason for foisting this issue on the community, if one can see through the murkiness. Her child is a senior and this attempted policy change is all about her personal feelings, why else would it be slammed into this agenda right now?

It is enlightened self-interest at play here, no more no less, which is why she should be ousted as a board member. She has used her elected position to add this to a board agenda despite decades of reporting scores one way, policy data that suggest this would negatively affect a great many students, and what would amount to a clear reversal of efforts to reduce anxiety.

She ought to recuse from discussions based on her obvious bias, including inappropriate conduct interacting with school personnel on this issue, amounting to extraordinary prejudice. Dr. McGee ought to comment publicly on the appropriateness of her injecting her personal family's situation into board business at the 11th hour. Is it the board's plan to actually pull this off this year? If so, you've got a problem in that transcripts have already been sent out for early applicants. So are you going to have two sets of transcripts sent by one school because of a board member's family situation? What kind of professionalism is that?

6 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2016 at 10:51 am

The only thing they need to change at Paly is putting an H by classes, but then not applying for the Honors credit throuth the UCOP format. Children at other schools have many weighted classes and can have a 4.8 average, But, I think most colleges are aware of this. At Paly, they kids taking the Honors classes do not get that extra gpa bump up. ( I think they did apply for H physics)

Putting an H on a class is not the same as actual Honors credit for UC's. The list is on a site called Doorways. UC a-g approved coursework. Colleges do not care if your transcript has an H on it unless it has been UC approved. You can look at every other school and see their course listings. There is a school in San Jose that just put all honors weight on their classes thinking it would give their kids an advantage, but instead, it divided the school and without real standards for Honors classes, the kids are at the mercy of what their teachers consider "honors"

If PALY wants to put the word Honors in front of their classes, I think they need to file with UC so kids do the harder work get the credit do. Now, they do not. They do get personal glory..... BUT... I think a better alternative would be to offer some of the easier AP classes to sophomores because the text books support the classes and there are limits and standards to ap classes as opposed to honors classes. There are many kids at PALY that could easily handle AP level work as Freshman and Sophs and that cred is a very usable currency for college applications. ( maybe two offerings-environmental science and geography are more attainable for some than ap chem for example0

14 people like this
Posted by Ellen
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 18, 2016 at 11:08 am

This is confusing to me. Just adopt a common system between our 2 high schools. That's the main thing.

Can I ask why this disparity wasn't noticed by anyone on the Board until now?

28 people like this
Posted by Wrong Tree
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 18, 2016 at 11:09 am

Students who want to attend schools of higher level than CalState schools know that they need to take APs to keep their application competitive. Reporting unweighted GPAs leads to more stress because students worry that their application won't be competitive. It's the AP classes and poor teaching that are leading to stress. Many lazy AP teachers teach less, claiming "it's a college course, so figure it out." My college child says that the professors teach more and better than his AP teachers at Paly did. Lazy teachers also rely on the intellect of our students and families to pay for tutors. We had a science teacher who told students to use the study-buddy system because he doesn't stay after school due to his commute. Teachers should have to stay an hour after school everyday (or at least some days) so students can access them. Tutorial on Tuesdays isn't enough to see all 6 teachers, especially when there are lines.

I spoke with some Stanford engineering students who said they get more sleep than they did in high school because of all the AP classes, extracurriculars necessary, and studying for the SAT. Do our teachers realize the pressure these students are enduring? And an 8:15 start time doesn't help with their late sleep cycle of teen bodies (Menlo-Atherton starts at 8:45 and 9:25).

33 people like this
Posted by Gunn Mother
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Dr. McGee,
We already have a "Performance Arms Race," and while your efforts to add services as a palliative for this competition are admirable, they have NOT "mitigated this pressure." The pressure exists because the colleges have admission criteria that students believe requires them to take as many advanced classes as possible and get A's in them. If you really want to help reduce stress among Paly and Gunn students and control the "Arms Race," start by giving seniors a reprieve from homework, papers and tests in the fall so they have time to work on their college applications, add in a few no homework nights for all grades, and ask Dr. Herrmann to pay attention to the teachers who assign papers and projects as well as have tests during Homecoming week. She seems far more interested in eliminating the few fun traditions the kids have at Gunn then actually paying attention to the demands placed on them. Thank you.

29 people like this
Posted by Palo alto home owner
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 18, 2016 at 12:46 pm

Gunn High School currently has a good policy to provide weighted GPA if needed.
Please don't change it.
Why change a good policy if it's not broken?

The Superintendent and the District should spend more energy on how to hire more qualified teachers. Some teachers doesn't have a passion for teaching or simply can't teach!

23 people like this
Posted by Supply & Demand
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 18, 2016 at 4:10 pm

Give our students everything possible for college application success.

It only takes little bit more programming to print them on the grade report.

There is no reason not to do it if the colleges/universities applied accept them.

Print both and don't guess!

This is also an incentive for student to learn more for their future.

22 people like this
Posted by weighted is better
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 18, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Weekly: "district and site administrators worry that weighted GPAs contribute to unhealthy academic competition and student stress."

This may describe Paly students who Challenge Success found use "stressful" the most often when describing their school but it doesn't describe the Gunn my friends' kids attend.

Take a gander at Challenge Success' survey results for Gunn:

Gunn students' #1 adjective about Gunn? "Caring."

At weighted-GPA Gunn, AP-taking students (even those taking lots) are:
- "significantly more" engaged and
- "significantly less" worried about
their academics than those who take no or just a few APs.

But Stress? Homework? Challenge Success found NO significant difference by the number of APs Gunn students take.

When compared to their unweighted-GPA Paly peers, Gunn students are happier and healthier too:
- more Gunn students are "fully engaged" in their learning while more Paly students are just "doing school"
- more Gunn students report less stress and less academic worry than Paly students do. Web Link

So why exactly do the powers that be think Gunn should become more like Paly?

9 people like this
Posted by ROI
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 18, 2016 at 5:02 pm

ROI is a registered user.

Comments like these, "While we have mitigated this pressure through a host of programs, services, and actions ... " and "Having invested over a million dollars in health and wellness at the high schools these past two years" ... make me wonder.

Has there been an accounting for how the million has been spent - or where? On staff? Programs? Actions?

And what results are being seen as a result? Metrics? What was the district's hope or intention for the dollars spent? Outcomes, please.

How effective can additional $ervice$ and expenditure$ be if conditions like Gunn Mother and Wrong Tree report are allowed to persist?

My heart goes out to our youth. Constantly being measured and held to an extremely high standard. We should expect at least the same from the District administrators. Account for your decisions and expenditures to improve student health in a report to the community, please.

34 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 18, 2016 at 5:28 pm

There are many students at PALY and Gunn who take only one or 2 APs (as recommended by school district), do not apply to ivy colleges, have an unweighted GPA that is lower than 3.2.

When these students want to apply to a college which does not recalculate GPA, they would certainly want to show that added points (weighted GPA) to have more chance to be accepted by the college.

Why take that advantage from those students? Why create stress?

School district needs to understand that "college entrance" is the source of stress, and blocking success adds to the stress.

38 people like this
Posted by gunn '16
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 18, 2016 at 5:36 pm

Palo Alto schools have no legitimate justification for not reporting weighted GPAs.

"Academic Arms Race" is a flawed argument; college admissions officers see students' transcripts, and a student with a bunch of AP classes is more competitive than a kid with none--even if the kid with no APs has an unweighted 4.0 while the kid with several has an unweighted 3.8. All the lack of weighted GPA reporting does is deny students scholarship opportunities.

5 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 18, 2016 at 6:28 pm

I am so happy for my child that PALY reports the un-weighted GPA's! He was told to only take honors and AP classes
if he was passionate about the subject. Please remember, your special snowflake does not have to take honors
& AP classes. It is obvious to everyone, that weighted GPA's contribute to more stress, please stop trying to twist
this subject.

37 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 18, 2016 at 6:44 pm

I think that Paly should report weighted grades for the simple reason that most of the AP and H courses involve much greater amounts of work and effort, and those students who take the hardest classes should be rewarded for their effort. The Paly course evaluations of last year give honest assessments of how much time the courses take; in the most extreme examples are AP and honors courses where the workload is the equivalent of two courses.

I think the 'Arms Race' argument is wrong. Very little research has been done on the question of whether weighting classes leads more students to taking AP and H courses in order just to get a higher GPA. This is just an hypothesis. The only study that uses sophisticated statistical methods on this question concludes that when schools switch to weighted grades, it does not lead to increased enrollment in weighted courses. From a theoretical perspective it might be the case that having weighted grades actually reduces the stress of the students who take the harder classes.

I do believe that stress is a problem at Paly, but I think that there are some simple things that the administration could do if they are serious about reducing it. The first would be to allow students in every class to drop one test result in determining their final grade. This is done by quite a few classes at Stanford. It reduces stress over one bad result; it also gives a grade that better reflects performance since one bad result can be an outlier. The second would be to follow Stanford's lead and prohibit more than two final exams on the same day. The third would be to end the rule that dictates that when a student drops down a lane in a subject that they carry their grade into the easier class. This creates undo stress and seems counterproductive - if a student is struggling with an honors class and getting a poor grade, then they can't win. Their grade reflects an inability to do the tough material, and then when they drop to an easier class they have to dig themselves out of a deep hole caused by their difficulties with mastering tough material. If you want to reduce stress give those students a blank slate when they drop a lane.

39 people like this
Posted by they've put in the effort ..right?
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 18, 2016 at 7:21 pm

If they students have put in the extra effort, surely the weighted gpa is only fair. Can't believe this is even up for discussion, when there are cases that scholarships may hang on this!
This is a non issue.. both schools should report weighted and unweighted gpa's.

Lets discuss the more pressing $3-5 million shortfall instead.

11 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2016 at 8:03 pm

Dear All,

I have a suggestion and a request:

1) Why don't we honor our students who need scholarships, want to play collegiate sports and want the best chance (given their hard work) to get into college and spend a few years sharing the weighted grades and see what happens. In the meantime, let's do our kids a favor and get transparent about the grading policies, especially for honors and AP classes so we are all dealing with the same set of facts. Our kids work hard and they deserve for their hard work to get them interesting and appropriate opportunities.

2) Could we please stop second guessing Board member goals and bashing them (and not just on this thread). This is about giving ALL our kids opportunities.

Thank you.

12 people like this
Posted by uneven grading
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2016 at 8:48 pm

I hope that the board will add to this discussion the discrepancy for grading between Gunn and Paly. My understanding, from a current board member, is that there are stats available that show teachers grade A's tougher at one of the schools by several percentage points. I would tell you more but I do not want to quote the wrong numbers. I hope that someone can post the actual numbers. I think a lot of folks would be as surprised as I was.

Reporting grades, either AP or regular classes, differently within the same district is wrong. I was told that "the colleges know the difference". Even if that is true, this is a wrong message to our students. To have a student have the same percentage at one school and get an A while the if they were at the other school they would get a B is fundamentally wrong. If the district has these figures and is not resolving this issue then there is something fundamentally wrong with their thinking.

27 people like this
Posted by paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 18, 2016 at 9:36 pm

Reporting unweighted GPA creates more stress for our students, not less. The pressure is coming from colleges--not only Ivy League Universities, but even state schools like UC's and CSU's. Our students don't live in a bubble. Paly counselors tell them not to take too many AP and honors courses, then the kids turn around and hear college admission officers emphasize "course rigor" and the importance of AP classes. There is clearly a disconnect between the two sides giving advice. Furthermore, with unweighted grades, the kids feel the need to get an "A" (versus they can more afford to get a "B" in a weighted, honors course). I understand the good intentions of reducing stress with this 35-year old tradition, but college admissions have changed so much in the last few decades. If we want to help reduce stress, don't hold our kids back and "tell" them not to stress. Give them the credit they deserve for putting in the extra work for the more advanced classes, and push for real change on the college admissions level.

Also, someone suggested that one board member with a Paly senior might be benefitting from this discussion. If what I read is correct, no change will be made for graduating seniors this year. Let's assume good intentions.

14 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2016 at 10:34 pm

Dear ALL,
We have at least one student who would attain a meaningful scholarship if the change were made this year. If you support Weighted Grades on Transcripts, please push for the change this year. Every student counts. The student with the need for the scholarship was brave enough to raise the issue. Let's let our students know their voices count and make the change happen for her and the rest of the class of '17.
Write Dr. McGee, write the School Board and even consider encouraging your student to attend the next Board meeting when it is not spirit week.
Thank you for considering this.

22 people like this
Posted by Yes to weighted grade !!
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 18, 2016 at 10:57 pm

Yes !! if kids take AP and honors classes they have earned a weighted grade for their hard work.

Minimising the amount of AP classes kids can do makes sense (to reduce stress) but not giving weighted grades does not. Especially if they are awarding weighted grades at Gunn. Also weighted grades can favour boys who get focused later. And also allow kids to gain a higher GPA with hard work in tough AP classes in junior and senior years. Paly's average GPA is lower than other local schools and because of this it is harder for our kids to get into UCs. I know this because my son has been told he has **no** chance of getting into a UC because of his unweighted grade even though he has taken 5 AP classes in the last 2 years. So his out of state college eduction is going to cost me probably $30,000 a year more as a result. And my son is being defined by a poor freshman year rather than straight As in his last two years. So please yes !!! Award weighted grades as soon as possible.

Like this comment
Posted by Play student perspective
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 19, 2016 at 7:30 am

[Post removed.]

15 people like this
Posted by Gunn '16
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 19, 2016 at 7:37 am

@Yes to weighted grades / other similar comments:

Just to clear up a few misconceptions here, reporting weighted grades versus unweighted will likely have zero impact on UC admissions--all the UC schools recalculate students' GPAs according to their own metrics, and UCs don't actually see students' transcripts until after admission. Unlike the Common Application, where counselors report students' weighted GPAs, the UC application only asks students to enter course names and grades received.

The only area where this change would come into effect is in regards to private and out of state public universities that do not recalculate students' GPAs. Reporting weighted GPAs isn't going to help your kid get into an ivy/etc. as many of the kids(/parents) in Palo Alto want; those schools are getting plenty of applicants with 5.3s, 9.7s, 12.2s, and all kinds of other funky numbers--they're recalculating kids' GPAs themselves.

The only place where this change would have an impact is with out of state publics and privates that offer merit aid for specific GPA cutoffs--University of Oregon was mentioned in the article, and I know of a few universities with similar programs (I can think of University of Alabama and Indiana Bloomington off the top of my head). A weighted GPA being reported in addition to an unweighted GPA has essentially zero bearing on getting kids into the hyper-selective universities that so many Palo Alto parents are focused on.

11 people like this
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 19, 2016 at 8:47 am

It was very interesting to see the meeting last night. [Portion removed.}

The parents who came out to complain about this issue were (1) totally confused and believed that the subject under discussion was "taking away weighted grades" and (2) immigrants who I believe do not understand the US college application process all that well and were overwhelmed with anxiety about whether their child was somehow losing out. The result was an all-out panic, spun up by Melissa's and Heidi's re-election campaigns and Camille's crazy demogauging on this topic.

I blame this misinformation and panic and fearmongering on two factors. First, the district and PTSA and PTAC have spent years doing very little to reach out to immigrant parents, particularly Chinese parents, to help them understand the differences between the US college application process and the system that they are more familiar with which is far more competitive. [Portion removed.] Second, Dr. McGee failed to manage this correctly and get in front of it (again) to ensure that he protected and respected his staff. Why for example was the Paly staff relegated to 3 minutes at the mic? Why did Ken Dauber have to (gentlemanly) give his 5 minutes to Kim Diorio or else she would have had no change to defend herself? Where was any staff from Gunn and why weren't they there to show that they are all in agreement? [Portion removed.] This was an out of control crisis and he is responsible for that yet again.

We have the obligation to do what is best for all students. We especially should not change longstanding practices that have the backing of the counselors and principals in order to satisfy anxiety about misinformation, which is all this is.

[Portion removed.]

Anyway, Palo Alto is hopeless since we have board members other than Dauber and Godfrey who are actually shamelessly willing to stoke panic over college and grades in order to get re-elected. That was an incredible display of amorality. If Heidi and Melissa are re-elected, shame on us.

10 people like this
Posted by I felt badly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2016 at 11:12 am

To Panic,

Why the all-caps and 9 exclamation points tone and dismissive attitude about families just looking for sound logic before the district adopts a policy that costs students scholarships and puts them into decades of debt?

You said they are totally confused thinking that what was being discussed was "taking away weighted grades." Sounds like you are confused, maybe because of the Weekly's misreporting that Paly just "recommends ending Gunn’s practice of counselors reporting the weighted grades on the Common Application."

What Paly actually said in the document in the link is that both Gunn and Paly principals and guidance teams met and all are "in agreement" that Gunn High School should no longer provide weighted grade information on college applications, changing its long-standing practice. This is "taking away weighted grades."

I do agree that it was odd that Gunn's team was MIA while Paly's whole team spoke up. No one from Gunn was there to defend the controversial topic they created with their recommendation to drop weighted GPAs. Especially odd given that 30 Gunn students and parents were able to find the time to be there and speak out. I felt badly for Paly's principal left alone to do both high schools' heavy hitting.

17 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Home Owner
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 19, 2016 at 12:33 pm


By the way, parents who went to the board meeting are all well-educated people who went through college here in the US. Definitly not like you described in your message "immigrants who do not understand the US college application process".

The fact is MOST other school districts in this area report Weighted GPA (except Fremont).

4 people like this
Posted by Been There...
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 20, 2016 at 1:17 pm

Paly students weighed in on this last are their thoughts:

Web Link

TL;DR: Keep Paly unweighted.

12 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 20, 2016 at 3:40 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.

2 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 20, 2016 at 5:52 pm

I'm guessing any weighted GPA reported would be what the UCs use. If so, then some students' weighted GPAs will actually be lower than their cumulative GPAs once PE, living skills, academic support classes are removed from the calculation. Won't that have a negative impact in admission?

6 people like this
Posted by Hope Max is Listening
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2016 at 8:09 pm

Hope Max is Listening is a registered user.

The majority of readers' posts and likes on this thread so far are in favor of a weighted GPA. I hope Max is listening. However, it might be difficult for Max and the Board to hear people's voices on this GPA reporting issue since they are in the throes of figuring out how to rescue themselves from their $5m budget shortfall.

Perhaps instead of giving weighted GPA credit to those students who take AP classes, the Superintendent/Board/Paly/Gunn should just hand out trophies to everyone who shows up to school for just "participating”. Goodness, we could't possibly give higher grades to students who do more or better quality work because that might make other students feel bad and cause someone "stress". On the other hand, last time I checked, the U.S. is a democracy and a capitalist country where anyone has the opportunity to excel if they choose, and should be rewarded for it.

If someone chooses to take APs great. If not, great. But the district either needs to honor AP effort, or just ban APs altogether.

2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:09 pm

^Well that was a false dichotomy...

4 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 22, 2016 at 1:09 pm

The reality is that top schools want to see you take APs and Honors and they want to see you get an A.

To the extent public universities have certain grade cutoffs to get a scholarship, that's a good argument for having weighted gpas, however, for a student with an unweighted gpa of 3.2 Is the issue the weighting or the grading?

To the extent that these AP courses are so much more difficult that students putting in good work receive such low grades, maybe the issue lies more in the grading system? Perhaps these higher level classes should be rewarding our students by giving them an A, even if it means a lot of the class receives an A? Maybe we need to let colleges do the work of distinguishing our students.

3 people like this
Posted by Be Positive
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 22, 2016 at 2:08 pm

Be Positive is a registered user.

If they REALLY want to decrease stress - the following would go far

Ensure that teachers actually instruct their students and teach what they will test on
Eliminate grading on a curve
Enforce the homework rules
Create consistency across class sections - for example, all sections of English 9A should be graded on the same criteria and receive the same homework load.
Find a way to eliminate teachers who should have left the field long ago!

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 22, 2016 at 3:23 pm

The SAT grades on a curve.
And the curve is easier now than when I was a kid, by about 100 points.

7 people like this
Posted by Bella
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 26, 2016 at 9:57 am

The thing I don't like the most about PAUSD is that the schools/district always try to hide information from parents and students, in the name of reducing stress and competition, be it 6th grade math skipping test or which GPA reported in high school. This information blocking is exactly one of the reasons why the student and parents are anxious and stressful in PA.

How many PALY students before senior year have been told that only non-weighted GPA are to be reported, when they decide how many honor/AP classes to take, and when they decide whether they should drop a class or lane when they are struggling in classes? As a parent, I probably would have never known until my kid might need a weighted GPA during application.

How many other things are hidden by the school district?

2 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 26, 2016 at 10:16 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Been There... "TL;DR: Keep Paly unweighted."

I guess you really didn't read it.

The article has both pro and con, and doesn't take a side. If you want to cherry pick to support your point, the last sentence of the article is, "Paly should include the weighted GPA in addition to the unweighted GPA currently on a student’s transcript"

Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Crescent Park

on Nov 2, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Remember me?
Forgot Password?
Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.

Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Crescent Park

on Nov 2, 2016 at 12:32 pm

Remember me?
Forgot Password?
Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.

5 people like this
Posted by Please reward hard work in school
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 8, 2016 at 12:42 am

It is American culture and tradition to reward hard work. Why hiding a student's achievement from his/her HONEST hard work? Has it become a shame to work hard in school and to go extra miles to meet challenges for tomorrow?

As many parents pointed out, American universities and colleges accept wighted GPAs. Unless that is changed, we should automatically report weighted GPAs on transcripts.

There are bigger issues to address in PAUSD. Please fix things that are broken. Please do not break things that has been working. Thank you.

1 person likes this
Posted by David Shaw
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 12, 2016 at 11:43 am

Who says weighted GPA would result in unhealthy pressure on students. It is in fact quite the opposite. A student would then be fretting over A vs B+ because he would not have a margin and he would not be challenging himself. It is utterly nonsense. I mean how about we do not report any GPA what so ever. Would not that be even less pressure by the same logic? Instead of all this gymnastics and false assumptions all you need to do is ask yourself what is the most accurate reflection of a student's academic performance encapsulated in one number. Absolutely it is weighted GPA over unweighted GPA. Therefore weighted GPA should be reported for all students. It is as simple as that.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Verve Coffee to start brewing in Palo Alto this Friday
By Elena Kadvany | 7 comments | 1,933 views

Premarital and Couples: Musings on Life
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,071 views

The summer bucket list
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 736 views

Cap On? Cap Off? The Cities Respond
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 687 views

Why we are Warming
By Sherry Listgarten | 5 comments | 652 views