Despite a unanimous school-board vote to report weighted grade point averages (GPAs) on current high school seniors’ mid-year transcripts earlier this week, district Superintendent Max McGee and Palo Alto High School Principal Kim Diorio wrote in an email to the board Thursday that administrators are "reconsidering the necessity" of doing so.
Paly will not be sending transcripts with weighted GPAs to schools that seniors applied to early unless students make a written request, Diorio wrote in a message sent to Paly students Friday afternoon. Staff plans to bring a new short-term proposal to the next board meeting on Nov. 15, despite the fact the board approved a short-term solution — report the weighted GPAs for current seniors in January, and determine a longer-term plan later on — on Tuesday.
The memos came after Diorio said she worked with the district’s technology staff to determine how many students would be disadvantaged if the school reported their weighted GPA.
The data were "compelling," Diorio wrote, but she did not specify how many students would be disadvantaged.
McGee, in his weekly memo to the board, stated that adding weighted grades to seniors' transcripts "is not in the best interest of several students."
McGee referenced the fact that Paly and Gunn use different methods to calculate weighted GPAs. Paly uses the University of California/California State University weighting system, which doesn't count ninth-grade courses nor non-UC approved courses.
Gunn High School uses its own method.
McGee wrote that out of 474 Paly seniors, 269 students would have higher weighted GPAs using Gunn’s methodology and 205 students would have a higher average with the UC/CSU system.
"This is not a simple matter," he wrote.
In her message, Diorio reassured students that no action would be taken before the next board meeting and apologized "for the confusion and any anxiety this week has caused," she wrote.
"We love our seniors and have confidence that in the end, things will work out. Remember, 'college is a match to be made, not a prize to be won.'"
Board President Heidi Emberling told the Weekly Friday that she didn't see Paly's stance on weighted grades as "backtracking" but rather "trying to figure out how to move forward with the board’s direction."
"The key for me is that no student is harmed by this decision," she said. "We wanted this year's seniors to have the benefit of the new guidelines. I'm looking forward to hearing more about the solution for this year and hoping that it will be flexible and supportive of student needs."
The board's vote Tuesday night has elicited strong responses from both sides of a suddenly heated debate. While Gunn counselors report seniors' weighted GPA on the Common Application, Paly counselors do not. Neither school has been reporting the weighted average on official transcripts.
Those who were urging the board to report weighted grades to aid students in both scholarship opportunities and college admissions saw the vote as a victory. Others continue to be concerned about the potential harm the new practice could cause for students' mental health and well-being, while others questioned what they described as a surprising "knee-jerk" reaction from the school board.
Three petitions were started before the meeting to support weighted GPAs, and another in opposition was launched the day after the board meeting.
McGee wrote in his memo that he will make a recommendation to the board on what the district should report on students' transcripts in the long-term before April 1. He plans to solicit community input to inform that recommendation through public meetings and online webinars, according to his memo.