Petoskey High School drops class ranking system
Weighed grading system (March 7, 2013)
The council did, however, vote to stop ranking students in a graduation class.
In a school with weighted grades, the school determines that grade points in certain more rigorous honors or Advanced Placement classes are worth more than the traditional four grade points for an A, three for a B, two for a C and one for a D. For example, one system of weighted grades might give students in honors or Advanced Placement classes five points for an A, four for a B, three for a C, and one for a D. This makes the grade point averages and class ranks of the students in weighted classes higher than those who earned the same grades, but do not take the more weighted classes. High schools across the state are not uniform in either which classes they designate to receive the extra points or in how much of an extra point these classes are worth.
At the Feb. 21 meeting of the Petoskey school board, parent Ron Marshall asked the board to consider implementing weighted grades at Petoskey High School, so that students might be more competitive for college admission and scholarships with students from schools who do weighted grades.
Marshall cited research from Harvard that showed that students who took more honors and AP classes earned higher grades in college than those who don't. He wants Petoskey to do all it can to give students incentives to take honors and AP classes.
In his research, Marshall has found schools including Central Michigan University and Ferris State University honor a school's weighted grades in their admission processes. Other schools, such as Northern Michigan University, remove all weighting of grades that local high schools do. Then, they have their own factor that they add in later, for students who take Advanced Placement classes.
"It is a complex issue, because not all high schools and not all colleges handle the weighted grades in the same way. I'm still doing my research on this topic," Marshall said.
Director of Teaching and Learning Lynn Slanek said, "After two meetings, the TLC unanimously voted to not weight grades and to discontinue class rankings. Several of our board members expressed further interest in weighted grades following Dr. Marshall's public comment. If the board wishes more information, then it will be provided. It is their choice. As far as the district TLC and high school committees, discussion and voting has been completed."
Principal Jim Kanine said that Petoskey High School has considered the issue of weighting grades since 2010, both at the site school improvement team level and at the district Teaching and Learning Council. Though research provides pros and cons for each approach to high school grading, Kanine said that staff and parents on the school improvement team and on the district Teaching and Learning Council decided keep the Petoskey system an unweighted system.
Their decision was both pragmatic and philosophical.
"We certainly don't want to disadvantage any of our students," Kanine said.
The research into the University of Michigan and Michigan State admission processes, found that neither school accepts locally weighted grades. Instead, the universities convert all grades to the unweighted four-point scale at the start of their admissions processes.
"The one area we found where our kids may have been disadvantaged by not doing weighted grades was in class ranks. Highly selective universities, like Harvard, want students to be in the top 1 percent or 3 percent or 5 percent on class rank, if the local district keeps a class rank," Kanine said.
Class rank in a system that does not give extra weight to grades for students who attempt harder classes favors students who take easy classes for good grades, hurting those who choose more rigorous classes, but don't make the easier A's. A lower class rank would be a negative factor in the eyes of the universities who use class rank scores in the admissions process.
"After looking at our research, instead of weighting grades, we decided to drop class ranking altogether. We discovered that without a school class rank on a transcript, our students will automatically go into a holistic review of their college transcript when being looked at by an elite school," Kanine said. "Admissions counselors say there is no disadvantage to a student who comes from a school with no class ranking system."
"College counselors told us that the whole student high school record is important. It is important that a student has taken and done well in some AP classes, but they don't have to take every AP class," he said. "The colleges look at student grades, course selection, activities and ACT or SAT tests. So, we have felt no need to go down the weighted grade path."
As philosophical reasons not to start weighted grades, Kanine quotes the district vision "special place for everyone" and school mission "to expect all students and staff to strive for high levels of students' academic/vocational performance."
"In the spring of 2012, we had 805 students who did not take AP classes. While there was no compelling evidence that unweighted grades hurt the top students, we had 805 students who would not benefit at all from a weighted grade," Kanine said. "We want our students to choose the classes that best benefit them and their futures, and we want to support them in all areas."
He added that this class choice should not be made for a competitive reason of getting a better grade point average, but for what students are really interested in learning.
Petoskey High School already has a good track record increasing the numbers of students who take Advanced Placement classes. In fact, Petoskey received an award from the College Board which administers AP classes and AP testing, for increasing the number of students taking AP classes from 132 in 2010 to 163 in 2012.
For student incentives, Petoskey High School has a Renaissance program that recognizes students for all different reasons throughout the year. An incentive for academically-talented students is recognition given at an honors assembly and during graduation. Students who have a 3.25 to 3.49 grade point average are given the distinction of cum laude, 3.5 to 3.74 magna cum laude, and 3.75 to 4.0 summa cum laude. They wear different colored cords during graduation to honor their achievement.
Harbor Springs and Charlevoix do not weight any class grades toward student grade point averages. Boyne City High School gives additional .33 of a point per trimester to AP and dual enrollment college credit classes, making an A in these classes worth 4.33 instead of 4 points when calculating a student's grade point average.