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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

GPA boost shouldn’t boost stress

Recently, the debate over removing the GPA boost that comes with taking AP or Honors classes has become a topic of discussion. Many parents worry about the stress students face with their overwhelming schedules filled with advanced classes. Yet this obsession with APs has nothing to do with a love for endless nights of homework, and everything to do with a tiny number that sums up the entirety of a high schooler’s accomplishments.

Whether it’s right or wrong, GPA is one of the key ways to measure academic prowess, and ambitious students are doing their best to boost their number. The 1-point GPA boost is a motivating reason many students take Honors or AP classes, but the real question is: Is this GPA fixation so bad?

The main complaint is that students overwhelm themselves with too many college-level classes. Some critics think the magic solution is to remove the extra grade point, and students won’t take the classes that stress them out, thereby creating a healthier learning environment for the school. In trying to do so, however, it is easy to overlook many positive aspects of the GPA boost.

AP and Honors courses are more difficult and sometimes require at least double the time commitment as regular college prep courses. Instead of removing the grade bump, the school can better reduce student stress by teaching students how to manage their time and work-load.

Beyond such training, each student is making informed choices about how they wish to spend their time. At some point, the kids have to take responsibility for their own scheduling. It isn't fair for the school or the parents to take on the unnecessary responsibility of  regulating a student’s informed decisions, just as it isn’t fair that mature high schoolers complain about their own choices.

Because students are informed, they should take classes that they feel would most benefit them. Without the grade boost, there is much less of an incentive to take higher level classes. It doesn’t make sense for a school to be advocating mediocrity. Taking out the GPA boost would even discourage people who are genuinely passionate about the subject from taking the course, because it would be easier and less risky for them to take a less rigorous — and usually less educational — course.

There is an inherently difficult struggle in taking AP and Honors courses, and students ought to be rewarded for taking on the extra rigor and responsibility. Although some argue that colleges take the difficulty of a student’s schedule into account, it is one thing for colleges to ambiguously “consider” the difficulty of a course level, and a tangible academic comparison like their GPA.

However, teachers have argued that the boost makes students less motivated to study or work as hard to learn above-and-beyond material in that specific class. The flaw with this reasoning is that it assumes that students are most motivated by the content of the class, when in reality, students — especially SHS students — are highly motivated by their grades, and will therefore strive to do the best that they can in any class that they take.

It is universally accepted that a C in an AP or Honors class is not preferable to an A in its college prep equivalent. Students’ desires to improve their GPAs inspires them to study harder; thus, they learn more by being inspired to work for their grades.

At an academic powerhouse like Saratoga High, competition forces students to put a lot of care for their grades. Even though the merits of this mentality are highly disputed, it breeds success among students, as long as they are informed about the consequences of taking higher level classes.

Each student strives to excel at the norms of our academic world, and as desperate as it may seem, that means that students need any boost that they can get. So keep the AP and Honors grade boost as it is.

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