Board not sure of grade proposal

Members want to know if weighting grades would hurt AP students

Posted: Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Juneau School Board had more questions than answers Tuesday after hearing a proposal that the high school grade Advanced Placement courses be weighted differently from other courses.

The concept, called weighted grades, would give students in Advanced Placement courses a 5.0 grade-point for an A, 4.0 for a B, and so on.

Juneau-Douglas High School now grades all courses on scale of 4.0 to 0.

Students will be more willing to take Advanced Placement courses if they don't have to worry that a "B" grade will lower their grade-point average, Jeff Bush, a parent on a committee that proposed weighted grades, told the board at a work session.

"I don't feel it's had enough research," School Board President Mary Becker said later.

The real question is how to offer more Advanced Placement courses, which is a financial issue, she said.

Advanced Placement courses, whose curriculum is set by the College Board, are on a college level. Students can take a national test to earn advanced placement or credits at colleges.

Moreover, college admissions officers look favorably on Advanced Placement courses as a sign that applicants have worked hard in high school and are prepared for college.

The proposal comes from the district's Extended Learning Committee, which represents the parents and teachers of gifted and talented students.

Parents said they want to encourage more students to take Advanced Placement courses, especially when the Dimond Park high school opens in 2008.

Two high schools will split the student body and make it harder to generate enough students at each school to justify offering many Advanced Placement courses.

Bush also said that weighted grades more accurately reflect the grades that Advanced Placement students deserve.

In a district survey of JDHS teachers, 18 opposed weighted grades, and seven favored them. Many of the school's 70-odd faculty members didn't respond.

The reasons for opposition varied. Teachers' comments were listed anonymously in a district report.

One teacher said students shouldn't be more motivated by their transcripts than by a passion for ideas. The respondent, who teaches Advanced Placement courses, also worried that having more students in those classes could cause teachers to water them down.

Other teachers said weighted grades would be a disadvantage to students who took regular classes, and will further reward students who do well anyway.

School Board members said they wanted more information about whether weighted grades for Advanced Placement students would hurt other students' likelihood of being in the top 10 percent of their class - a threshold for a $11,000 scholarship at the University of Alaska.

The School Board's Program Evaluation Committee has discussed the proposal but didn't make a recommendation, Becker said. The board hasn't taken further action.

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