Palo Alto superintendent recommends 'no' on weighted grades this year | News | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto superintendent recommends 'no' on weighted grades this year

School board to vote on short- and long-term proposals Tuesday

Despite strong opposition voiced by some students and parents, Palo Alto Unified Superintendent Max McGee is sticking with his recommendation that the high schools continue to report only unweighted grade point averages (GPAs) on students’ transcripts this year. However, he's also recommending the district immediately issue formal letters on behalf of seniors who need the weighted-grade number to qualify for a college scholarship.

McGee explained this short-term recommendation in a letter sent to all district parents on Friday. For the few schools that won't accept an official letter, the district will "provide additional documentation and/or aggressive advocacy on behalf of the student," he wrote.

Long term, he proposed that the district convene an advisory committee to make recommendations to him, and he in turn would make a recommendation to the board before the start of the next school year.

Currently, both Palo Alto and Gunn high school report only unweighted GPAs on transcripts, and counselors from both schools inform students of their weighted average during meetings. Gunn counselors, however, report seniors' weighted GPAs in a section of the Common Application for college admissions, while Paly's do not. Both schools have historically sent letters or contacted schools directly on behalf of students who need their weighted GPA to qualify for a scholarship, staff has said.

McGee also recommended revising the district's focus goals — significant, overarching goals adopted each year that drive the board and district's work — at a January board retreat to "replace items in the work plan with this matter, which has become an important topic and is clearly a priority for the community and the board," he wrote.

The school board will vote on McGee's proposals at its meeting Tuesday evening.

McGee's stance on weighted GPAs is aligned with that of both high schools' principals, their school counselors and psychologists and the majority of teachers and staff. They have said that the potential negatives of reporting weighted GPAs — breeding an unhealthy focus on grades rather than a love of learning, discouraging students from taking non-AP or non-honors courses, and changing a historical practice to handle exceptions rather than the norm — outweigh the positives. They have also noted that colleges and universities have their own processes for reviewing GPAs and take into account the fact that reporting practices vary at many high schools.

Some Paly and Gunn students and parents, however, strongly disagree. More than 20 students and parents, primarily from Gunn, turned out to the Oct. 18 board meeting to urge the board to adopt a new practice — reporting weighted GPAs on official transcripts — to recognize students' hard work in advanced courses and to not deprive them of the choice to report weighted GPAs. While the debate over weighted grades was brought to the full board's attention by a Paly senior who wants her school to report the higher average so she can qualify for a large merit-based scholarship, it has struck a chord with others who perceive their very acceptance to college as at risk.

This week, Gunn parents started an online petition to gather support for their position. As of Friday afternoon, just over 300 people had signed it.

"We thank the board for continuing to look for ways to improve our children's education; but this measure has unintended negative consequences, that perhaps, have not been well thought through," the petition reads.

"This is not a source of stress for our children," the petition continues. "In fact, removal of wGPA will add stress to our children because they will have to stress significantly more over maintaining an A, and preserving their GPA. Most likely the students will opt for the less challenging, non-AP class just to preserve their GPA."

Two other online petitions urging support for weighted GPAs, both started by the same person, and a "Yes on wGPA!" website have also been launched.

McGee has committed to having a uniform practice at both high schools, but only after a committee thoroughly studies the issue with deep input from students, parents, alumni and others, he wrote in his recommendation to the board.

"We understand and empathize with students', parents' and teachers' concerns about admissions and scholarship decisions as well as their concerns about students' health and well-being and therefore want to give any decision regarding long-term practices the diligent attention and depth of thought necessary," he wrote.

McGee also cancelled a Gunn-Paly information session on weighted grades scheduled for Tuesday morning, citing the "extensive student, parent, and teacher input" the potential committee would seek if approved by the board.

Related video: Reporter Elena Kadvany discusses the weighted-grade issue on this week's "Behind the Headlines" webcast, posted here.


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62 people like this
Posted by Dumb, Dumb, Dumb!
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2016 at 2:59 pm

Dumb, Dumb, Dumb! is a registered user.

It is essential for the future of the US that American students get into good colleges and get a bachelor's degree at the very minimum! Most employees are requiring advanced degrees, and to make a REAL living wage that enables aUS citizen to enjoy home ownership an advanced degree is indispensable!

Weighted grades are necessary to get American students into good colleges and to compete with immigrant Chinese students vying for spaces in American colleges and universities!

To forbid weighted grades is a large and ignorant mistake on the part of the Superintendent.

72 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 28, 2016 at 3:23 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

It IS dumb, because the main rationale against weighting (too much focus on grades) makes no sense. Most universities either recalculate GPA or look favorably on AP classes, so these is still just as much incentive to load up on honors/AP courses. Hiding the weighted GPA on transcripts is treating our high school students like they are babies.

59 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 28, 2016 at 3:45 pm

@john_alderman - I think it was your post from another thread, that I really like: "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."

14 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2016 at 8:30 pm

Why do people like PA schools so much? There's so much dysfunction! No school is perfect but man, the hits keep coming and I just feel that other area schools are above and beyond what PA has to offer. But I'd rather my kids be happy and go to a UC than Gunn, depressed, & Brown, so clearly I'm missing something...

80 people like this
Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 28, 2016 at 8:34 pm

I teach at Paly and wanted to comment that the claim that a majority of teachers support unweighted GPAs is unfounded because no survey was ever sent out to all staff members. There was one sent to TAs a majority of who did support unweighted grades but the teachers as a collective were never asked.

25 people like this
Posted by firehisaphalt
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 28, 2016 at 9:01 pm

When Administrator start to interfere negatively in the district is time to think what is his intentions.

56 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 28, 2016 at 9:52 pm

Students work real hard in AP classes. They deserve the additional weighted average to boost their GPA when they take AP classes

When the students compete for admission to highly competitive schools, it makes a difference as to having higher GPA.

The Palo Alto school board should adapt the consistent grades reporting scheme as many school districts such as Irvine unified.


9 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 28, 2016 at 10:43 pm

Come in from the Midwest. Pad my resume. Drop the mic. Leave success in disarray. It's what I learned in grad school.

11 people like this
Posted by Former fan
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 28, 2016 at 10:46 pm

How the "mighty" lighthouse had fallen.

60 people like this
Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2016 at 9:48 am

McGee is terrible. How did this become a big issue in the first place? Seriously, we're picking a fight with Univ. of Oregon? Put the number on the darn transcript and please focus on doing your job.

40 people like this
Posted by Justaparent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2016 at 11:51 am

It's such s detour of minimizing stress in our schools. Who is doing it in the mid year? God damn, ASK STUDENTS what works best for them! Not what a superintendent want.

47 people like this
Posted by High school in PAUSD is ONLY about the resume - not the learning!
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 29, 2016 at 12:41 pm

High school in PAUSD is ONLY about the resume - not the learning! is a registered user.

This is just ridiculous! High school in Palo Alto and many of our neighboring towns is ALL about building a resume for college and getting a great GPA for the majority of our students. Weighted GPA's are a norm in so many schools, not using them actually ADDS to student stress. If you want to actually reduce student stress, start actually instructing students, don't grade on a curve and enforce the homework policy.

38 people like this
Posted by Angry parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 30, 2016 at 9:30 am

[Portion removed due to factual inaccuracies.]

Something major is wrong with the board, superintendent and HS admins of both schools.

Now it comes the politic part, form a committee and delay the decision. How is this even become an issue from the first place? Just add the WGPA into the transcript and problem solved. I cannot help but wonder if there is special interest behind the scene!

27 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 9:41 am

Bringing this over from another thread which may explain the "special interest" you mention.

Someone posted in that thread that GPAs don't matter much in the holistic round, so you have to ask why then is Paly fighting so hard to NOT share a number that ONLY seems to matter for scholarships at colleges like Oregon. It's not because Paly doesn't want students to get merit scholarships.

What it 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 ill-informed, based on 99% of the reader posts, "we will change the world" agenda.

18 people like this
Posted by Angry parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 30, 2016 at 9:51 am

@ hard to believe that Paly decided to fight instead of help

Agree with you, they "kidnap" our students instead of fight for them. [Portion removed.]

25 people like this
Posted by Immoral and broken community
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 30, 2016 at 10:18 am

At the last board meeting many thinking people got a good look at the reason our students are so stressed. The two dozen parents who streamed to the microphone -- egged on by Board Member Camille Townsend -- to demand that their students be "rewarded" for taking AP and honors classes was shocking. The disrespect shown by Townsend to Paly Principal Kim Diorio and the counseling staff by everyone in the room other than Ken Dauber -- that was also shocking.

Here's a question for you:

Where were these parents when two teachers -- Kevin Sharp and Ronnie Farrell -- were alleged to have sexually harassed and even (in Farrell's case) assaulted students at Paly. Where were the parents to demand safety for our female students? I don't remember 2 dozen parents coming to the mic to demand that the district fire Scott Bowers for allowing Sharp to stay in the classroom over Diorio's objection. Where were these so-called concerned parents?

How about when the principal of Ohlone left a teacher accused of sexual molestation of a child in the classroom for a year and never reported to the district that the police had inquired about him? How about because his mommy was a teacher at the same school? Where was the parade of angry parents then?

Or how about when it is disclosed that our disabled students are bullied, attacked, and denied their civil rights? Where were then then?

Where were these parents when 11 children took their own lives including four Chinese students most recently? Where were they then? Where were they and why weren't they equally angry?

It seems to me that this district has distorted values and priorities. Students can be sexually assaulted, harassed, bullied, punched, ignored, discarded, and can even die. CRICKETS. But GOD FORBID that they don't get "weighted GPA" -- then Palo Alto's parents come shooting out of the woodwork, goaded by a Board Member no less, screaming about their "rights."

None of them even knows what the hell is even happening. What does weighted even mean? What gets weight? How much? Gunn doesn't even use the UC/CSU weighting system. It has its own made up system. Should we all have that? Is that a right? What is it if it isn't UC/CSU?

Here's a fun fact for you [portion removed]: THERE IS A BOARD POLICY on this. It is up to the Superintendent to make a recommendation. It states that Community College classes should be weighted. So, I guess Middle College students get the most weight of all! HAHHAHAHAHHA.

Palo Alto is unfixable. it is broken. It's morals and values are in the gutter. If you have the money, move your child to private school. If not, move to Los Altos. This cannot be fixed at any price.

Kim Diorio is sure to quit in the next 12 months.

17 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 30, 2016 at 2:39 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

More like immoral and broken school district. Where were parents when two teachers harassed/assaulted their students? Hopefully at home or work where they belong. You should be asking where were all the overpaid administrators and and union bosses whose job it is manage teachers and protect students.

12 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 30, 2016 at 3:21 pm

It is all about college admissions, and political power.

On one side, there is this large group of silent, uninvolved parents with overachieving kids who take an incredible array of honors and AP classes, and want to show their kids' efforts in numbers. On the other side, there is this large group of loud, political and influential parents whose kids take none or a few honors classes, but want to have their kids to have the same level of chance in college admissions by hiding the numbers.

1 person likes this
Posted by Silent uninvolved helicopters
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 30, 2016 at 4:08 pm

[Post removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by Justaparent
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 30, 2016 at 4:42 pm

Lot of discussion/politics about the issue. Where were (blank)? Who benefits from (blank)?
Ask kids what works for them! If the main goal is truly and honestly to minimize stress.

9 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 30, 2016 at 6:06 pm

So you ask who benefits from his decision?
It's so obvious! The school decisions are revolved around this group so often from my observation. It's not hard to figure out what group I mean.

6 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 30, 2016 at 6:52 pm

[Post removed.]

7 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 30, 2016 at 8:53 pm

It is not much effect even if we let Kim Diorio go as long as we let this group influence the PAUSD administrators. The group has the power which made the zero period come back at Gunn. (hint hint) We made so much sensational debate to lose it, but soon after it's back as if nothing ever happened. The group is so powerful. They don't waste their energy and time by commenting on PaloAlto Online.

6 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 30, 2016 at 10:45 pm

In "Glenn's" voice: here's what I learned — if it's not what I learned, change it, take credit, add to my resume, and peace out.

Anyone remember PAUSD? Speak up!

5 people like this
Posted by Questioning
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 30, 2016 at 10:50 pm

[Post removed.]

3 people like this
Posted by Jenn
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 30, 2016 at 11:01 pm

[Post removed.]

18 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 30, 2016 at 11:20 pm

McGee needs to go and in no universe is a super worth more than $225,000/year - period.

Like this comment
Posted by Another mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 31, 2016 at 7:57 am

@mom, what group? so that I can protect my kids.

And what's been removed?

3 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2016 at 9:15 am

I do not think the admin. is "against" weighted grades, their students can not get them because they did not file for them last FEB. They will need to file before the UC required date for next year. It is not like they are against or for UC designated credits, it is is not an option for them. They have not authority over the UC system.

This situations is a wonderful excuse to change what is really wrong at this school. (honors classes that have no standards and are hotbeds of stress and no honors classes for kids without outside support) I also think the admin may have very serious post stress and anxiety leftover from very tragic events as they were there closer than most. I think parents do not realize how deeply sad it is to make very difficult calls and be on site for tragedies. I know certain words trigger anxieties. These are just labels. maybe, think of the UC designated credits as just coupons you can collect and use if you have to. Too much importance has been placed on the word "weighted" The word "weighted" conjures up images of parents meeting their kid at school, yelling at them in the car for getting an A- on the way to a tutoring center. This is upsetting but it is good opportunity for the school to get rid of their own labels and then designate "honors" Uc credits with the UC 's. Tell parents their general classes are designated as UC honors and they get UC H credits just because they are better because they are-test scores and teaching warrant this. They need to know uwgpa is really the gold standard. General classes at Paly are like honors and the honors classes are more difficult than AP classes.

To get rid of stress.....
I would like to see the classes labeled as honors only by the school just dumped. They are set up well for eager parents,outside advantages and time wasting. Many parents think these are the best path to The higher lane AP classes that they know they need to compete for scholarships or UC's and because the population at this school does like a challenge and most want to be moving forward. Well meaning parents soon find out soon that the instruction in these classes do not match up with testing and finding outside help does give the kid a huge advantage. The kids' time and mental health has to bridge the gaps make by parents expectations and lack of direct instruction.

However, These honors classes do not prepare the kids for an AP any better than a good teacher in a good general class. I would argue that with 1/5 of the class time being used for testing and 5 hours per week studying- using route memorizations mostly actually is damaging to brain development because these classes use the lowest level of thinking while under stress. A joke I heard a kid tell was that teachers give tests so they can have their play time in class. I also notice there is full block period once every two weeks in these classes. That is about 60 hours of testing. The kids are just sitting there. The teacher is usually at a computer, sitting. 70 percent of the test is memorizations.

There is more interaction, projects and better testing in the general classes which these gifted kids need more than memorizations. Honestly, there are so many gifted kids and having them memorize and test goes against their brains. I do not think going all Waldorfy is great idea either, but now instead of letting them read texts or other sources, they give them online practice tests so they can test again at school. These tests are being sent home and are online and add about 2 hours of screentime with low level thinking. So tedious and boring. Locking kids to such mediocre lessons all at the same speed is actually painful for most kids and also dehumanizing and this is what happens in many of the honors classes. This helps no level of kid if you believe in levels.

So, dump the unvetted honors classes and designate at least 8 general classes as UC weighted-Do NOT label them as honors in a catalogue but clearly explain they have UC weight. Put higher order thinking in them like a long term research project. The test scores and teaching talent warrants this.

The overachievers will be happy to get the same credit. Evil parents can abuse their children off campus so others do not have to see it and the flowers will grow and there will be dancing..... The parents may be mad, but their kids will be safe. The research project can be the point of differentiation and if the honors classes are not rigorous enough, their own research could carry that burden. I am sick of seeing what parents do to kids to get the A in these honors classes and am sick of seeing no minorities or even middle kids getting honors classes. The counselor told my kid that they should not take any honors class if they did not have a tutor- I thought she was kidding but this is no joke. It is a public school so all instruction should be done in class. Sal kahn or Mr.Science guy cannot check for understanding and should never be responsible for direct instruction.

Most of the teachers at PALY in the general classes have streamlined, differentiated instruction and almost all of them could be labeled 'honors" at the UC's with perhaps one research project. KIds do just as well or better jumping from nonhonors to ap classes. All the kids would be able to get the UC weighted classes provided they remember to file for them. Many, Many kids would opt for a UC honors class instead or Ap's that they may not be ready for. All the kids would be prepped to take the AP courses. Tinsley kids could get the same exact advantage as the AJ tutoring kids. People that have a problem with making 8 of the awesome PALY general classes designated as honors are the ones that have enjoyed an unfair advantage, or an honors teacher that may have to give instruction to kids not able or willing to get SO much outstide help. Most AP classes at the school are very clear and have safeties built in and support, the unvetted "honors" classes do not.

More colleges are asking for weighted designated credits as a quicker filtering tool to see how a student challenged themselves and for CA students to have an advantage over the international, higher paying students they cater to. Not filing for UC cred will prevent even the highest kids from top programs and UC's and force them into taking too many ap classes or CC college classes which breaks kids down. The UC's and the label is the enemy not the parents or staff. Why not work together to devalue the honors label and make sure at least 8 of the general classes will prepare all the kids for ap classes or more designated UC general classes and 8 will be properly designated by this FEB! Every kid will have this as an advantage. I love things that make the overachievers mad and also love using coupons given to me. That is all these designated uc honors creds are really, just little coupons that are not good to use everywhere but at some good places. Sometimes doing the opposite of what you want is the solution.

11 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 31, 2016 at 9:34 am

@outsider - you misunderstand. The Paly admins (and Dr. McGee) have stated strongly that they are against putting wGPA on the transcript. They have the weighted GPA in hand, they will put it on an "official letter" at the student's request. Unfortunately, not all schools will accept an "official letter" - they want to see it on the transcript. This could be done tomorrow if the admin's agreed, and indeed the board may order them to do so on Tuesday.

9 people like this
Posted by Jenn
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 31, 2016 at 10:30 am


20 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 31, 2016 at 10:45 am

@ Outsider
Old Palo Alto

Your opinion is long on hypothesizing without facts and data support but just uncovered a true motive, eliminating AP and Honors after uwGPA initiative. As you mentioned, from a resident of Old Palo Alto, it is not a surprise. By living at Old Palo Alto, your goal is to maintain status quo and if can, to drag down everyone else while at the same time sending your kids to private schools to ensure they are college ready and be competitive. One board candidate indicated on her website that she had to make a "difficult" decision to send her daughter to a private school.

Based on the survey of thousands of Gunn and Paly students, 2015 Challenge Success report shown:
-Gunn had significantly more students taking AP and honors courses.
-Who took more APs AND school providing weighted GPA (Gunn) had significantly fewer academic worries.
-A statistically significant difference in health & well-being by the number of AP courses Paly students took.
-Taking AP or honors courses reported significantly more engagement – cognitive, behavioral, and affective – than students who took none.

The preliminary CDC report also shown there is no indication of any linkage between academic stress and the tragic events happened.

Do you realize 14-16 hours a week you put on any varsity sports is equivalent to 3 AP classes work load? If you are fine to give trophies to athletes so why not rewarded extra points to kids do well in academics?

For high achievers, wGPA and uwGPA had no impact on their college admission and scholarship application; it is for the majority of student body in the middle range of bell shaped curve that wGPA could help them to gain scholarship for an affordable college education. Research data shown 51% of US colleges do not recalculate GPA but to take the GPA on the transcript send by schools as it is.

74% of schools in US now reported wGPA, increased from 66% 10 years ago.

It is sad that the wealthier Old Palo Alto residents are backing Paly admins with this wishful short sighted and isolated thinking by pulling down thousands of PAUSD students will make their own privileged kids competitive but forgot there are still millions outside of district and another millions of international students are marching ahead. The world is charging ahead but our district is heading backwards.

6 people like this
Posted by Weighted GPA Supporter
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 31, 2016 at 11:06 am

Gunn Parent,

Last year PAUSD reported that Gunn students took 1.5 more AP classes than Paly students took, total, during the 4 years of high school. That does not sound like "significantly more" to me.

Web Link

Be kind to North Palo Alto folks. Many of them oppose Paly's administration on this too.

2 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 31, 2016 at 11:09 am

I think you misunderstood because my idea is probably weird and you are angry. Giving honors credit for general classes with a research component help all the kids. The classes at PALY at least are already at an honors level. The actual "honors" classes are not available to kids without outside instruction. Research is valuable and adding it to general classes would maintain the rigor and reputation of PALY. AP classes at this school are really well done. Kids deserve to have the designated UC honors credits to use and the school should get at least 8 classes on their list by Feb. For this year, the mess is big and parents should probably just talk to registrars at colleges of choice instead of getting caught up in emotions and biases. a good think for parents to do is to look at the UCOP website when kids are Freshman and also realize that every college mostly wants unweighted grades. Personally, I think the right thing to do to for this year only is to issue a letter at least, but early admissions and the Nov. first deadline is over and looming. And , I am not sure if the UC's really care to give Palo Alto High School a pass on not filing their honors classes as designated honors classes last year. Giving them that break will weaken their own deadlines for the rest of the world and they have no need for more applications. They will need to file near Feb. for next year if they want to support kids that are trying to get into the UC system and will have to have the bump ups most other kids have. All the kids can not afford out of state or private. These are pretty big stakes these little micro points carry. I think people need to focus on the changing climate of college admissions and do what is best for the students today and stop looking for weird motives or reasons to hate.( there, I listed Barron Park- will you read it differently? : )

23 people like this
Posted by observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 31, 2016 at 11:10 am

This should be a death knell for the superintendent. HE IS DOING NOTHING LESS THAN PREVENTING PAUSD STUDENTS FROM ATTENDING THE BEST COLLEGE THEY CAN ATTEND. This is direct data. Fairy tales about lowering stress by manipulating GPAs are just that. NO DATA available and no way to take accurate data. And he claims to be a STEM expert! Who does he think he is - he works for us, not the other way around.

29 people like this
Posted by AStunnedObserver
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2016 at 11:37 am

So, Kim DiOrio thinks there is no meaningful difference between achieving an A in AP Calculus and an A in the lowest level of remedial Math? That taxes the mind and ones sense of honesty and fair play. If you commit to a far greater workload and academic challenge and are a success, you deserve appropriate recognition. It boggles the mind that this is even an issue. This has been standard practice for 40 years at high schools all around the country.

If you penalize students for taking AP classes, you will quickly see them avoid them. So, if the goal is to lower stress by lowering everyone's academic objectives and goals, this is a certainly a very good way forward.....

The thing that is most offensive to me is that the school district appears very willing to allow a current student to lose a scholarship so they can 'send a message'. About what, it does appear clear. Unweighted GPA's to me would cause significantly more stress.

Posted by Jet pilot
a resident of Stanford

on Oct 31, 2016 at 12:26 pm

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.

10 people like this
Posted by NoiDoi
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2016 at 12:53 pm

The fact that this thread exists proves the uselessness of APs. The PAUSD can fix the whole problem by adopting the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which is far more valued by US universities and internationally, in lieu of APs. The IB actually teaches critical thinking -- as opposed to facts and tests a la APs -- and is recognized as a more valid measure of achievement. Every kid gets final grades of 1-7 in the courses and every university knows exactly what those numbers represent.

You want dime-a-dozen AP students applying to universities or differentiated kids with a leg up on all of them. It's a lot of effort to go IB but, really, what's the alternative beside endless bickering on APs.

16 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 31, 2016 at 1:05 pm

[Portion removed.]

Dr.McGee proposed to send wGPA on a letter if needed but refused to print it on transcript per certain colleges requirement, University of Oregon is just one of the many, does this sound rational to you? If wGPA is the cause of stress, will it make a difference if it printed on a "letter" or a "transcript" ????

[Portion removed.]

10 people like this
Posted by waterdownGPA
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 31, 2016 at 4:36 pm

I sense the purpose of this is more like to water down GPA among smart kids and so so kids. With no wGPA, many more kids will get the same A, so they all have the same GPA to apply college. [Portion removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by Think with Data
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 31, 2016 at 4:39 pm

For parents who are interested in weighted GPA discussion, there is a web site with related information on it:
Web Link

I found the two research papers on the web site very helpful for understanding the background and impact of wGPA.

Web Link

Web Link

Happy to share.

15 people like this
Posted by Caring Parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 31, 2016 at 8:50 pm

I hope an informed decision can be made soon based on feedback as well as data.

I have full respect on educators. I believe their experience and expertise make huge difference on the success of education. But for issues like this, community’s opinions should also be heard - this is not about how to teach math effectively; this is very personal. I was chatting with a school counselor last week. He told me “It’s the University of Oregon’s loss. Because our students are great.” That’s probably not wrong from a professional's perspective. But if a student finds a perfect fit of the university, and/or her/his family needs the scholarship in order for her/him to go to the college, that would be the student/family’s loss, not the university’s.

Regarding WGPA would breed an unhealthy focus on grades. I’m wondering if schools have any data backing that. I chatted with a friend who attended UCLA. She told me that her high school used UWGPA, and many students were trying to only take classes that they thought high grades might be easier or possible. My family’s experience so far: we have never paid any attention to weighted or unweighted. My child’s course selection is based on these factors: graduation requirements, prerequisite, his wellness, his interest and alignment with his potential future career. No matter which course he takes, he puts 100% effort on it. And he hopes his effort can be rewarded when weighted is applicable which also helps reduce stress from some difficult courses.

10 people like this
Posted by Stew Pid
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 31, 2016 at 8:50 pm

Isn't it wonderful what these richly compensated administrators operate?

No leadership.

Don't stick your neck out.

Punt it over to a committee so they can take the blame.

Then ask for a parcel tax so they can bust the budget on top of that, and not do their jobs.


14 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 31, 2016 at 10:15 pm

"But for issues like this, community’s opinions should also be heard - this is not about how to teach math effectively; this is very personal."

Great point - when the board talks about "deferring to the judgement of the professionals," it's one things when we are talking about pedagogy or curriculum (though even on those I would expect reasonable evidence to support their views). But here we are talking in part about a kid's prospects and future. The educator input is valued here, but it is certainly not the final word. The Board needs to set up.

2 people like this
Posted by Gunn leaders - ha
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 31, 2016 at 11:19 pm

Principal: Yaaasss! Sew confusion. Disrupt the "Gunn way", do my thing, and move on to more money agar an admin job

7 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 1, 2016 at 7:07 am

I don't understand why our leadership in education think our students will not compete academically if they don't have their weighted GPA on their transcripts.

The UC has so detailed descriptions of how they recalculate the applicants' weighted GPA. As long as they have the system, our students have to work around it whether the schools hide their weighted GPA or not.

The college application system as a whole is corrupted. What the leadership in education should target is to fix it the system, not students and their parents. Well, fixing the system is too big to fix for our seniors this year. They should do at least know where the problems are and do everything they can do to truly HELP our seniors.

1 person likes this
Posted by parent of young adults
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 1, 2016 at 8:52 am

Posted by High school in PAUSD is ONLY about the resume - not the learning!
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 29, 2016 at 12:41 pm
"High school in PAUSD is ONLY about the resume - not the learning! is a registered user.
This is just ridiculous! High school in Palo Alto and many of our neighboring towns is ALL about building a resume for college and getting a great GPA for the majority of our students. Weighted GPA's are a norm in so many schools, not using them actually ADDS to student stress. If you want to actually reduce student stress, start actually instructing students, don't grade on a curve and enforce the homework policy."

This is such a great post, I thought worth repeating. A symptom of our national problem.
The problems that have developed with college admissions in the U.S. are bigger than Palo Alto.
There is a general "doctoring" and "prepping for the record" going on that is sad, inauthentic, and competitive in a mean way.
I regret it IS the current reality.
The only quibble is about schools in neighboring towns -- rather self-centered view that our local area schools are special. In fact, I have met outstanding students from all over - even - SHOCK! - the Midwest - and Florida - for example. We all already know that Los Altos, for example, is a high socio-economic area with children expected to do well in schools in accordance with parent characteristics (education, career, finances).
Palo Alto schools are "special" because they have $$$ and are better than most CALIFORNIA schools by comparison,since many now pay for and cope with undocumented immigrants - a challenge - in many places, like L.A.

5 people like this
Posted by Scholarship examples
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2016 at 10:42 am

Here are a few examples of merit-based scholarships with minimum GPA requirements that will use the weighted GPA if it is on the transcript. Where this is not stated clearly on the website, I checked with a quick phone call.

CU Boulder: Web Link
Michigan State: Web Link
U of South Carolina: Web Link
Miami University of Ohio - Will use whatever the school provides on the transcript (highest if more than one), Web Link
U Alabama: Will use highest on the transcript, Web Link

5 people like this
Posted by Scholarship examples
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2016 at 10:43 am

The comment system doesn't allow too many URL's in a comment, so I broke it up into two posts. Here are a few more examples:

U Alabama Birmingham: Web Link
U Auburn: Will use weighted if on transcript, Web Link
Austin College: Weighted if on the transcript, Web Link
Truman State: Weighted if on the transcript, Web Link
Lake Forest: Web Link

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Posted by resident with kids in PAUSD
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 1, 2016 at 11:45 am

I agree with NoiDoi about using the IB model.

The weighted GPAs are going to benefit only those catering to the old system of learning.

We need to migrate to a more beneficial path that serves the mental health and earning capacity of our students. The answer is not in the grades.

1 person likes this
Posted by parent
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 1, 2016 at 12:59 pm

I received an excellent blog post from Board Member Ken Dauber that recommends the following:

Put the UC/CSU weighted gpa opn all transcripts.

I strongly support this proposal and think most parents do as well. It is fair, it is objective, and it gives credit according to a state-certified method to all students. It treats Paly and Gunn equally. It allows our students to get recognized for their hard work but is not grade inflation or just trying to game the system. It is an existing, state-operated system of weighting.

Ken is well-known to be a sensible guy (and our smartest board member by a lot) and he is also strongly for social-emotional well-being. Here is what he says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also invited the community to his office hours and to email him with reaction to his proposal: Web Link

I wish we had five of him in terms of common sense, thoughtfulness, intelligence and concern for students. But then we would be a whole different place.

14 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2016 at 1:14 pm

Marie is a registered user.

2Resident with kids in PAUSD Unfortunately, most students will be applying to schools that are part of that "old school" and do not have the resources to spend much time on applications. We can deplore their dependence on GPA's and SAT/ACT scores. But with the numbers of applicants they are dealing with, most schools, especially public schools which are often the most economical choice, choose to have the first sort of applicants be numbers driven.

To penalize and stress our students by refusing to comply with the requirements of these schools, solely to be able to say you are helping kids be on "a more beneficial path" is sophistry. It is not very beneficial if it means you are less likely to get scholarships instead of loans.

Sadly, if you want a college education, you do have to play the game. That does not mean you have to end up hating learning. My kids found their honors courses (back in the 90's) were their most engaging courses that went much deeper into issues than regular classes. Paly's AP US History was a revelation. It was a lot of work but I was so impressed with the curriculum and how it really taught my kids how to understand history. And they really liked the class. I didn't get that level of teaching until college. Taking AP math and science classes meant they were able to skip introductory classes and make room for more electives in humanities. They would not have been able to take those initial philosophy and anthropology courses if they had not been able to waive 2-3 math and science requirements.

The fact is, most of our students are college bound. I believe something like 95% go on to higher education, and something like 80% start out a four year colleges (these numbers are from the 90's - I doubt it has changed much). They can't change the system. We know that for most kids, a college degree is what it takes to succeed in what they want to do. It is not for everyone. I love and respect my many relatives who are great successes without a college degree. But the reality is that most of the children in Palo Alto are going on to college. Our high schools should be helping them do so even if some of the requirements of the colleges are nonsensical. We can't change that.

The real answer to relieving stress is not to do it by reducing the load on Administrators by not having them calculate weighted GPA's (and why don't they just use the UC method since so many of our kids go there?), but rather, as many others have stated, enforce the homework policy, provide better, more individualized counseling, and enforce standard grading methodology. Today some students get different grades for the same efforts because some teachers think it enhances their reputation if they only give a limited number of A's as opposed to giving an A to anyone who masters the material. Grades should be about mastery of the material, not being in the top 5% of the class. When a child gets a 5 on an AP test but gets a B or even C in the class, there is something very wrong.

5 people like this
Posted by bigger is better here
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 1, 2016 at 3:48 pm

Maybe one GPA weighting method as Ken Dauber suggests is better than another but IF consistency between the two high schools is a goal (it is), IF time is an issue this year (and it is), and IF PAUSD decides to put weighted GPAs on the transcripts tonight, they should use Gunn's method which is already coded in Gunn's computer system so easy to move over to Paly.

Otherwise you'd have to redo Paly AND Gunn's weighted GPA calculations, which at Gunn have already been sent to 100s of colleges for early action/decision - deadline today - on both the student's and counselor's Common App forms.

Then, Dr. McGee can have a committee investigate the different weighted GPA methods and which one is better.

Based on what I understand though Gunn's is better than the UC's since it includes easier-A non a-g classes so produces a higher GPA than a student's unweighted one. Gunn's higher weighted GPA means more students cross the GPA threshold for scholarships, which is good, right?

Parent above says that the "district should put students first and should be mindful of the impact of district policies on student academic stress and social-emotional well-being." Gunn's method does that.

1 person likes this
Posted by Logical Thinker
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 1, 2016 at 5:11 pm

There is a web site palo alto parents put together about weighted GPA. Many research data and thoughtful reasoning.

Please take a look to help understand the context and discussion around weighted GPA.
Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by GParent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2016 at 9:58 pm

It seems like a tragedy of the commons wrt to suicide. No parent thinks that their child will kill themselves. But the Board and Administration needs to consider the 4000+ students. And the odds of one kid in 4000 doing something tragic is greater than the odds of your own kid doing the same thing. So it seems understandable that the Board and Admin should have different views.

Therefore, maybe we better temper some of the harsh language here, because the District seems to be acting in the interest of the students even if you fear it's going to hurt your child's small chance of getting into Stanford.

Also, citing one child's attitude about stress is not statistically valid. So let's save time and not pull out 1-4 kids' opinions and cite them as if they were scientifically valid

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