As many of you have heard, the Advisory Council* recently revised Graded's policy on weighted grades. It had been several years since the policy had been reviewed and recently there have been questions regarding the rationale for the weighting practices. It is certainly healthy for the school to periodically review polices and practices. In reviewing the policy we gathered information from university representatives, educational experts, and other top international schools.
After much discussion we decided to take Guskey and Bailey's advice to define the purpose of weighted grades at Graded. The information that we gathered from university representatives convinced us that as long as we explained our grading process, the universities would be able to review them with their own processes and filters. For this reason we decided that the primary purpose was to acknowledge students who took more rigorous college courses by weighting select courses. This information would be used when we determined the top ten juniors and seniors, including the valedictorian and salutatorian.
- "To communicate teachers' judgments about students' achievements and performance to parents, to the students themselves, or to others..."
- "To select, identify, or group students for certain educational paths, programs or honors..."
From Developing Grading and Reporting Systems for Student Learning by Thomas R. Guskey and Jane M. Bailey
One of the university representatives stated, "We encourage students to take the more challenging classes, such as the IB, so we like to see students getting that recognition with the GPA."
With this decision done we set about the task of determining which courses to weight. In the end, we landed on the following.
All 1 Year Standard Level (SL) Courses - 5 points
All Higher Level (HL) Courses - 5 points
All Advanced Placement Courses - 5 points
We felt that all HL and AP courses are college level courses and that there is a high degree of rigor which deserves the additional percentage points. Since standard level (SL) courses are meant to be taught in 150 hours and 1 year courses meet for approximately 100 hours, students taking an SL course in one year are faced with an equally challenging workload.
We also considered the level of rigor for the Theory of Knowledge (ToK) course and decided that the workload in this class was not equivalent to a HL course. We also found that it was not common for ToK to be weighted at other international schools.
The final change that we made was to change the additional points from 6 to 5. Our research from international schools showed us that .5 (in a Grade Point Average) is common practice. A .5 increase in GPA equates to 5 points in our percentage system.
So, this was the information that I presented to seniors last week. In that meeting many of the seniors expressed concern about the changes to policy. There were two arguments that resonated with us and we decided to review our decision.
1. Those students who took IB history SL last year would not have received additional 5 points which meant that they would have been at a disadvantage when determined the top ten for senior year. We discussed several solutions and one of them was to go back and award the 5 points to those students.
2. Students were also worried about lower grades due to dropping the weighting for ToK and dropping the bonus from 6 to 5 points. One of the solutions was to explain this change to universities so that a lower grade would not be perceived as a drop in academic performance.
After some discussion we decided to continue using the past weighting practices with the members of the senior class. While we identified other solutions, we decided that there was no need to potentially increase the anxiety level for seniors. We certainly appreciated the fact that members of the senior class shared their concerns with me in a productive and responsible manner. We heard their voices and decided to adjust plans.
These new weightings will go into effect for the junior class and I will meet with them in the coming weeks to share our rationale. The timing is right since we only calculate GPA during the final two years of high school.
Please feel free to share your questions or comments below.
*The member of the Advisory Council are Ms. Petersen, Mr. Klam, Mr. Peterson, Ms. Broderick, Mr. Futada, Dona Gila, Ms. McClelland, Ms. Beck, Ms. Molony, Ms. Miller, and Mr. Bair