High school discusses weighted grades

The Board of Education met and discussed proposed changes to the weighted grade system at the high school at its regularly-scheduled meeting on March 17. Although Dexter High School already has weighted grades for all Advanced Placement courses and International Baccalaureate Higher Level (HL) courses, the proposed change will branch out to include IB Standard Level (SL) courses as well.

IB HL classes span over the course of two years, whereas IB SL classes cover only one year. HL classes are thought to be more difficult than SL classes, but both levels are considered rigorous based on their external moderation.

During the 2012-2013 school year, a committee that included administrators, teachers and parents met to discuss the possibility of weighted grades at the high school.

“Once we decided that we would weigh grades at the high school, the next question needed to be: ‘What classes are we going to weigh?’” Principal Kit Moran said.

Not everyone on the committee was on the same page, however, according to Moran. The committee readily agreed AP classes should get weighted grade status. International Baccalaureate classes, on the other hand, caused some difference in opinion.

“The question was whether an SL IB class was as rigorous as an HL IB class, or even as rigorous as an AP class,” Moran said. “Neither are easy classes, but the committee was not in total agreement that SL classes deserved that level of college-rigor status.”

Not wanting to slow down the process of introducing weighted grades into the high school, the committee decided to move forward with the recommendation for weighted grades. The decision was made to weigh AP and IB HL classes minimally at a .33 increase.

While some schools weight grades an extra .5 or even a one whole grade more, Moran said the committee decided to start lower than that.

“We didn’t know the impact it might have on students,” Moran said. “If you give a class too much of a weight, kids would try to take the class just to get the weighted grade. We were worried about unintended consequences.”

Regardless, the committee went forward in weighing AP and IB HL classes at the decided .33, agreeing to go back and reconsider which classes should be weighed after seeing what impact it had.

Now in their second year at the high school, weighted grades are being revised due to parent concern.

“The proposal to the Superintendent is to add IB SL classes now,” Moran said. “This wasn’t my issue. There were board members, often being parents, who brought this up.”

As part of the original committee to bring weighted grades to the high school, president of the Board of Education, Michael Wendorf, has been very involved in the process.

“The committee has continued to meet and now that IB has been implemented it became clear over the past two years that IB SL courses as offered at DHS also reflect the same rigor of AP and IB HL courses,” Wendorf said, “The benefit of weighing both HL and SL classes therefore is to recognize the rigor of the curriculum taken by students who have experienced these courses.”

Superintendent Chris Timmis agrees with the change.

“The weighted grade system is more consistent this way,” Timmis, said. “With saying just AP and IB, it makes it very clear. Otherwise it becomes a value judgment.”

Some students and staff feel a judgment of value is needed, however. The site classes like Humanities, which extends over two class periods, and Advanced Chemical Analysis ones that are just as deserving of college-rigor status.

“It’s a tough conversation to have,” Moran said. “At a certain point, we have to draw the line.”

Humanities teacher Ellen Doss who is opposed to weighted grading in general, said that colleges already know when a student has taken a higher level class like an AP or IB class.

“A student’s courses throughout their transcript should speak for themselves,” Doss said. “If grades are going to be weighted, the curriculum should be looked at and not just the label on the class.”

Humanities student and senior Sabrina Meo agrees and said she wishes Humanities was weighted because it is such a high-level course that she said takes up as much of a students’ time outside of school and has the same amount of work as an AP class.

“It’s frustrating to me,” Meo said. “I don’t get the ranking that other students get because the class isn’t weighted. IB SL is a lower-level class. It shouldn’t be weighted if a class like Humanities isn’t.”

Moran said administrators understand these frustrations, and said the process is a work in progress.

“There’s not one way to do weighted grades,” hesaid. “There are a lot of ways, and we’re still working out the kinks.”