School’s new grading policy only creates more stress, confusion

March 13, 2018 — by Jeffrey Xu

At the start of the ‘16-’17 school year, the administration implemented a new grading scale starting with the class of 2020 that negates the GPA effects of plus or minus grades.

Administrators said the new system would help relieve students’ stress.

Instead, the effect has essentially been the opposite. While students with minus grades do get the benefits of having minus grades not affect their GPA, the new system has created a more noticeable burden for students who find themselves falling just short of the next higher letter grade.

For example, in the old grading scale, the difference between an A- and a B+ was only from a GPA of 3.7 to 3.3, a difference of .4.

With the new scale, if a student earns a B+ in a class, their unweighted GPA for that class would fall to a 3.0, which is a much more significant difference compared to being able to receive a 4.0 from an A- with a grade that is just a few percent points higher.

This causes even more stress for students who have borderline grades.

Another facet of the new grading scale that further stresses students is that in order to make a noticeable difference in their GPAs compared to other students, the new system has pushed kids to unwisely and unnecessarily enroll in more AP or Honors courses.

With the grading playing field being more leveled out in regular classes, many students feel the need to take harder, weighted courses, perhaps creating more stress in the long run, even if they already struggle with the class to begin with.

While it is true that the guidance department and administration have warned students repeatedly about taking too many overly difficult courses, the new grading scale seems to contradict this advice.

Additionally, the new system has caused much confusion among students and teachers alike. For example, when the new system was put into place, and students still saw pluses and minuses on Aeries and their transcripts in the mail, they were confused.

Teachers have also been thrown off by the new change. Some teachers, especially those in the science department, have manually gotten rid of pluses and minuses in the grade reporting process, most likely without realizing that Aeries already accounts for the pluses and minuses as having no effect on GPA.

While this isn’t a huge problem arising from the grading scale itself, the administration should have been clearer in the explanation of exactly how the new grading scale would change how grades appear on Aeries and how teachers would not need to manually change the pluses and minuses.

Finally, the implementation of the new grading scale is unnecessary because that most colleges recalculate GPA based on their own scales anyway.

For example, the University of California schools treat A+’s and A’s as both being equivalent to a 4.0, but with an A- counting as a 3.7. In this system, essentially all pluses and minuses affect GPA, except in the case of an A+ grade.

Another argument cited by the administration in favor of the new scale was that it would match those of other high schools in the area, but in the end, the scale that actually matters is the one that the colleges calculate, which, according to The College Board, is the same scale as used by UCs, making the 4-point scale useless.

Due to the additional stress, confusion and deviation from the accepted college norm of a 13-point grading scale, the new grading system — which, according to principal Paul Robinson, took the school half a year and $12,000 to implement the necessary software changes for — may not have been the best, most stress-relieving idea, after all.

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