Amidst confusion, Palo Alto school board to hold special meeting on weighted GPA

Superintendent to make long-term recommendation next year

The Palo Alto school board has decided to hold a special meeting dedicated to the topic of weighted grade point averages, as the topic has generated an intense level of attention, emotion and even confusion among high school students and parents.

This was reflected at Tuesday’s board meeting, when 40 people, mostly parents, showed up to again speak about weighted GPAs, although it was not an officially agendized item. Many said they were frustrated with the process the board and district has taken this far to address a difference in reporting practices between Palo Alto and Gunn high schools. (Neither school has reported the weighted average on official transcripts sent to colleges and universities, but Gunn counselors have included it in a section of the Common Application.)

While the board voted unanimously earlier this month to report both unweighted and weighted GPAs on current seniors’ transcripts to avoid disadvantaging any students seeking merit-based scholarships or simply admission, the Paly administration pushed back days later, pointing to 145 students who would actually have a lower weighted than unweighted GPA. This is because Paly uses the University of California/California State University methodology for weighting grades, which doesn't count ninth-grade courses nor non-UC approved courses. Gunn uses its own cumulative method for calculating weighted GPA.

Then, last week, Superintendent Max McGee said schools would be giving current seniors the option to report their weighted GPA. And on Tuesday night, he said that he would make a longer term policy recommendation before spring break, next year, but plans to hold a series of meetings with the community and students specifically to gather more feedback.

One parent of a Paly sophomore said he was "shocked" the board was "kicking the can down the road again," expressing concern about a lack of transparency and process.

He called the series of decisions since the board vote on Nov. 1 "somewhat of a willful disregard of the board’s clear will."

Jay Krishna, whose son attends Paly, said there is "rampant misinformation" in the community about weighted GPAs. He urged staff to implement the board's original vote.

"Now it is time for the administrators to comply with that decision in a timely manner and make sure that all students have the best shot at college admissions and scholarships," he said.

Not all speakers, though, supported weighed grades, nor immediate action. Paly parent Lauren Barley made a plea for board "patience" in making any further decisions. Paly senior Sid Sharma, who said he would benefit from a weighted GPA, cautioned the board against making a "hasty" decision on something that could have serious implications, particularly for minority, low-income and special-education students and on student mental health.

A board majority decided a special meeting was needed given the heightened community interest. Trustee Ken Dauber and Vice President Terry Godfrey did not think such a meeting was necessary given a solution has been provided for current seniors. Dauber also requested to defer any special meeting until after new and re-elected board members are seated, rather than bind them to a decision made just weeks before.

"I don't want to be in a situation where we change the rules of the game three times for students," Dauber added.

David Tayeri, Paly’s student board representative, said there’s been a lack of clarity among students with the multiple messages coming from school administrators and district leadership. He told the board that after their Nov. 1 decision, he heard "a lot of criticism" that their decision seemed "rushed."

"Whatever we end up doing, that should be kept in mind," Tayeri said.

The other three trustees, however, favored holding a study session as soon as possible to clarify any confusion around short-term practices at the two schools going forward. They decided to hold the meeting on Monday, Nov. 21, from 4-6 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave.

"I think time is of the essence," outgoing trustee Camille Townsend said.

McGee has also tentatively scheduled an online webinar on weighted grades for Tuesday, Nov. 29, from 7-8:30 p.m.


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60 people like this
Posted by Caring Parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 16, 2016 at 10:52 am

I've attended all these "WGPA" board meetings, carefully listening to every speaker. I have to say the people who support WGPA have put huge amount of effort to research facts and their presentations were backed by data. Students probably don't have that much time to research into this. But every student who spoke to support WGPA was presenting very concrete evidence based on their own situation. On the other side, the arguments opposing WGPA were presenting abstract words like "could have serious implications, particularly for minority, low-income and special-education students and on student mental health". And all opponents are from Paly. If WGPA is so bad, Gunn community should have been the victim and the opponent. The explanation can be: 1) Paly's WGPA calculation has problem. 2) Paly community got misled information.

11 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 16, 2016 at 11:38 am

Knowing the piece of data that 145 students (more than a quarter of the students!) have LOWER GPAs with the weighted calculation Paly is using should be enough in and of itself to say that the immediate solution for ALL students should not be to report weighted grades in this manner. And probably a number of those students may not even be applying to UC/CSUs so why should that weighted calculation be used to apply to schools across the country when it is a very limited and specialized method particular to CA public schools? Then you have the other less data driven considerations in moving to this to change such as how this will effect academic stress/pressure, enrollment in instructional pathways, APs, etc, that also deserve to be talked about community wide. Why can the short-term solution continue for now which is to give kids the CHOICE if they want their weighted grade reported on their transcript, and then take a more thoughtful approach to making a final long-term decision? This decision was rushed into very hastily because of a very vocal and self-serving group that does not represent everyone -- all students, families, and staff deserve to be heard. "Will of the board" does not hold weight with me when the process to push this through disregarded the larger community, and occurred after many messages had gone out saying there would be a thoughtful process and that it would not be done in the midst of the application process for seniors. This has caused unnecessary stress for students in the middle of an application process, my senior was very upset about it and said many, many others were also. Leave this as a CHOICE right now while a long term solution is decided thoughtfully and carefully. Honestly, I'm disappointed that there isn't more support and energy around bigger issues affecting students such as mental health and academic pressure in the classroom than GPA reporting!

21 people like this
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2016 at 12:10 pm

It's amazing to see the level of misinformation that is being doled out by Camille Townsend and Melissa Caswell. They are claming to be reacting to confusion, while they are a primary source for it.

The school board two weeks ago told the administration to put weighted GPAs on transcripts using the methods currently in use at Gunn and Paly, which for Paly means the UC/CSU GPA. The administration realized that for some students, that resulted in a lower weighted GPA than regular GPA, so they decided to give students a choice.

That's it. That's not "defying the will of the board" that's following it.

The problem that sparked this was a student who needed her UC/CSU weighted GPA on the transcript so she could get a scholarship, because Oregon apparently won't consider a letter. The board addressed that problem.

Now that issue has been hijacked by a group of parents who are howling for the highest GPA. The board should resist the temptation to give in. Take a deep breath, don't make yet more changes for current seniors, and wait for McGee's recommendation for next year and beyond.

Posted by A confusing parent
a resident of Crescent Park

on Nov 16, 2016 at 12:16 pm

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55 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 16, 2016 at 12:50 pm

The problem, as far as I can tell, is that Paly's weighted GPA is useless - it is not a cumulative GPA (9-12, all courses), so does not meet the requirement for what most schools/scholarships are looking for when they ask for a GPA. The UC/CSU capped weighted GPA is a terrible choice - why Paly would report that to anyone sort of defies common sense. Infinite Campus has weighted GPA options built right into it - that's what Gunn is doing.

Paly again is tangled in its underwear "protecting" students, and telling the students that if they don't agree, they are harming each other. What a load of bull. As someone said, helicopter parents are being replace by helicopter administrators. There are things that can be done to reduce stress - defending this silly practice isn't one of them.

36 people like this
Posted by wGPA Analyst
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2016 at 12:58 pm

Some facts and clarifications:

@Paly Parent - The problem with the Paly UC approach is that it is NOT ACCEPTABLE to colleges as an actual weighted GPA calculation. Additionally it is not even used by UC therefore it doesn't solve the problem of reporting wGPA. This concern was actually raised at the very end of the November 1st board meeting by the Paly Student representative. As a result of the concern the board moved to have Dr. McGee report back the November 15th meeting which he did and did reaffirm that the Paly method is not cumulative and that affirms that it would not be acceptable where cumulative is required.

So to report wGPA the Paly method will not work (talk to the colleges) because it is not "cumulative" unlike Gunn's approach which is cumulative. Since the board's unanimous decision was to report wGPA they need to use a method that will actually be acceptable by all colleges otherwise, I believe, the school opens themselves to legal concerns (doing something that violates the board directive and has caused potential financial harm to their students).

It is a tricky issue for sure but when you get a unanimous decision you know you have something worth listenting to.

8 people like this
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2016 at 2:41 pm

This is what I mean by misinformation, about the UC/CSU weighted GPA that Paly uses: "Additionally it is not even used by UC therefore it doesn't solve the problem of reporting wGPA". That statement is just silly.

Legal concerns from choice of weighted GPA? Please.

Overheated rhetoric from people who don't understand the system and are trying to whip up a panic is not helpful.

8 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2016 at 2:57 pm

I agree w @caringparent and @concernedparent.

I also believe that this discussion was taken over by a few VERY vocal parents in favor of W GPA. I believe that
this is an important issue, to get right. We need to listen to all the parties, students, parents, teachers, admin, in
order to sort this out. The few vocal parents that I have been in contact with, are so assertive about this issue,
they scare me.

The students currently at Paly, especially the Juniors & Seniors have been told that grades are reported as
unweighted on their transcripts. Many students made class choices with this in mind. I don't see how, now
the goal posts can shift. If a new practice of grade reporting is started, it should be implemented for incoming ninth graders.

Please pro W GPA people go easy on me. It is just my opinion. Thanks!!!

32 people like this
Posted by wGPA Analyst
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2016 at 3:23 pm

@Palo Alto Your opinion is most welcomed assuming responding respectfully with information is not seen in a negative light or note going easy on you. Some other clarifications that might help are the following:

- One option is to report multiple wGPAs on the transcript. Mountain View/Los Altos High Schools report 4 and the colleges select what they need. So this isn't a someone wins/someone loses situation. If you report multiple GPAs (which Superintendent McGee seems to find as a viable option) then everyone gets what they need. Since it is all automatically generated by the grading software (Infinite Campus) it does NOT create any additional workload.

- The district should be unified in their approach. Right now Gunn reports one that is accepted and Paly reports one that is not accepted. So you have a few choices if you assume its good to have a parity in policies between the two schools:

- Change Paly's non-cumulative and therefore non-accepted method to Gunn's cumulative and accepted method.
- Change Gunn's cumulative and accepted method to Paly's non-cumulative and therefore non-accepted method.
- Change both to report both methods
- Change both to report another method or set of methods.

Reporting multiple solves all problems. The only reason one would be against reporting multiple would be if you fundamentally didn't want to report wGPA at all. BTW, people in this thread were asking for data so here is some more:
- The vast minority in the the comparable group that PAUSD benchmarks itself against report a usable wGPA
- In the entire Bay Area only 2 schools don't report wGPA
- in the entire country 75% of schools report wGPA.

One more thing and that is someone at the board meeting said they had their grades reported under a cumulative GPA over 30 years ago so this is not new system.

4 people like this
Posted by wGPA Analyst
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2016 at 3:29 pm

CORRECTION on my last comment:

The following sentence that originally read:

"- The vast minority in the the comparable group that PAUSD benchmarks itself against report a usable wGPA"

Should read:

"- The vast MAJORITY in the the comparable group that PAUSD benchmarks itself against report a usable wGPA"

27 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 16, 2016 at 5:07 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Palo Alto - the anti-wGPA side says 75% of colleges reweight GPA anyway, so didn't current students take that into account when selecting classes? Weighted GPA of some sort is reality for 99% of students planning to college. Putting it on the transcript is just making it more visible/

23 people like this
Posted by not confused
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 16, 2016 at 8:58 pm

Reporting both weighted and non-weighted GPAs is the right decision. Stick with it, Board.

Paly admin talked to your colleagues at Gunn. They have it figured out.

27 people like this
Posted by Another PALY Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 16, 2016 at 10:21 pm

@ Concerned parent and @ Paly parent of Downtown North,

Like many students, you are totally misled by the partial information that Paly admin and the district provided.

The 145 students who has a lower wGPA than uwGPA is simply because they use UC/CSU method to calculate. If Paly adopts a cumulative wGPA method like Gunn, these 145 students will ALL HAVE A HIGHER or the same wGPA than uwGPA.

UC/CSU will recalculate their GPA based on the course selection, they WILL NOT USE THE GPA PRINTED ON THE TRANSCRIPT, no matter it's weighted or unweighted.

All other colleges require a cumulative GPA that include all grades and all courses taken. So, UC/CSU gpa is not accepted by non UC/CSU colleges.

So, why printing a GPA that NO ONE will use it? Why does PALY admin still insist on printing this useless UC/CSU wGPA instead of a cumulative GPA?

Now, who is silly?

24 people like this
Posted by Orwell
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 16, 2016 at 10:37 pm

Lies, obfuscations, smoke and mirrors tactics to fuel fear and nervousness - that is what the Paly administration and Superintendent Max McGee are deploying to block a sensible approach to reporting weighted GPAs on transcripts.

Their approach is as confounding as it is irresponsible. If they truly cared about student welfare, they would actually do everything in their power to help Paly students get into choice colleges and avail of scholarships rather than putting hurdles in their way.

10 people like this
Posted by Parent over there
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 16, 2016 at 10:54 pm

Constancy?! Routines?! They help! Don't change Gunn's schedule AGAIN.

15 people like this
Posted by Long time PA resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2016 at 11:04 pm

@ Paly parent of Downtown North

I think you are the one who doesn't understand the system, and probably did not attend the board meeting or watch the video, because your statements were all wrong.

1. At the end of 11/1 board meeting, the board voted to put weighted GPA on transcripts. Mr. Dauber proposed to use current wGPA that each high school is using, but Gunn's student representative came back to remind the board that the UC/CSU wGPA that Paly will use is not cumulative and will not be accepted by colleges for scholarships.

So, the board ask Dr. McGee and printicpal Diorio to analyze it and come back with a solution for what wGPA to use.

2. Print UC/CSU wGPA cannot help THE student to qualify for scholarship, because U of Oregan does not accept a non-cumulative GPA.

3. The students currently at Paly, especially Juniors and below, have NEVER been told that that grades are reported as unweighted on their transcripts!

Many freshmen, sophomores, and juniors believe their grades are weighted because it's printed on the course catalog.

ANYONE who applies to UC/CSU knows that UC/CSU does weight AP/honor courses. All the weighted courses are clearly specified in Paly's course catalog, as well as how to calculate the weighted average. ALL students are aware of them before any course selection.

If students choose not to take these weighted courses, it's their own decisions. But don't blame the reporting method for your own decision!

7 people like this
Posted by wGPA Analyst
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2016 at 8:22 am

@Parent Over There you bring up a very valid concern for yourself and other Gunn parents who like the current Gunn cumulative method. If Paly's system stands then it becomes one of the candidates in a vote to unify the district on a given method. That is unless Superintendent McGee decides to support the reporting of multiple wGPAs which I think is the most viable solution that makes everyone happy EXCEPT people who's real objective is to eliminate AP/Honors classes.

4 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 17, 2016 at 12:37 pm

@Another Paly Parent: If you read my original post, you would see that I commented that the 145 students who had lower GPAs was due to the UC/CSU weighted grading calculation and does not seem like what should be used gven it is not used by other colleges. I don't appreciate the comment that I was "totally misled" by the Paly administration/district which makes it sound like there was some dishonest intent going on. That kind of talk pits people against each other for no good reason.

Honestly, I feel like this issue has become much larger than it really is. There are so many more important things to consider to help support our students in their academic stress and in having a positive high school experience. However this issue ends up I am sure our students will manage and will continue to get into college and get scholarships. The one thing we don't need to do is create a heightened sense of concern and worry for our current seniors who are in the middle of the application process that somehow this GPA issue is the end all and be all.

Like this comment
Posted by A factor to consider in weighted GPA
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 18, 2016 at 1:17 pm

This comment will probably be lost in the clutter, but please note that weighted GPA schemes often penalize you for taking extracurricular activities because they are worth only 4 points instead of 5. So if you take 4 years of orchestra and get A's in tons of AP classes, your weighted GPA will be lower compared to if you only took two years of orchestra. There are solutions available that can overcome this issue, such as calculating GPA based on a 4 point scale only, then adding a fraction of a point for every AP class taken. That way, a top student can take 4 years of an extracurricular activity and not be penalized. Another option is to simply not factor in grades taken in extracurricular activities that exceed the graduation requirements. The workaround today is to request that you take certain extracurricular activities for no credit, thus avoiding the penalty.

2 people like this
Posted by Factor
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 18, 2016 at 6:58 pm

@Factor - that kind of concern is only relevant of the student's overall GPA is above 4.0, right? That student has nothing to worry about - they are already making the cut for scholarships and second reads for applications. Weighted GPA is only useful up to a certain point. Beyond that, it doesn't make a difference.

Like this comment
Posted by SB
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 21, 2016 at 10:33 am

It seems to me if Paly switches now to a cumulative system, then some students could have a lower GPA than they would have without -- those students who got lower grades in 9th grade. I imagine the point of a non-cumulative GPA is to give students some space to get lower grades in 9th grade as they adjust to high school without penalizing them.

Not saying that switching to Gunn's method might not still make sense, but just pointing out that I don't think it's a 100% win for all students like some are implying.

1 person likes this
Posted by wGPA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2016 at 6:45 pm

This article misses a key point about Mr. Dauber's motions. There were not 1 but 2 failed motions with the second one being a slight refinement of the the first one. The reason why this is important is both those motions were made in direct opposition of the recommendations of BOTH high schools' - their principals and their counseling staffs - as well as the majority of the board (when asked by Ms Enberling if she'd 2nd the his first version of the motion Ms. Goddfrey said "OH No! I didn't 2nd it. I just said I heard it). One has to wonder why someone, who claims to speak for the students and wants to defer to the administrators and counselors (as they are the real experts here), not once BUT TWICE, tries to overrule the agreed to recommendations of those same experts and can't even get a 2nd from any other board member (and he still continued with effectively the same proposal after the universal rebuke on the first one)

Principal Diorio even said she supported going even farther and reporting 4 GPAs on the transcript, and I quote, "Last week when I was taking with Max this is what I suggested".

Clearly Mr. Dauber had problems with the original proposal such that he would twice try to tweak it. Strange that in the end he actually voted for it. My guess is it couldn't have been that bad and I thank him for being very consistent in the past 3 meetings that he fully supports AP and the reporting of weighted grading. After all he also changed his opinion from the October 18th board meeting (at that time he was against reporting). Clearly the data was compelling enough for him to change his view.

It's nice to know that we have set the minimum bar for this which can only get better when a final reconmedation is made. And we can count on Mr. Dauber'a continued support.

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

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