Citing a suffering GPA as a reason for dropping fine arts or athletics programs, students have grappled between pursuing a high rank or their passions for years. Intensified by Frisco ISD’s 2018 decision to only rank the top 10 percent of students, the district has aimed to eliminate this dilemma by allowing juniors and seniors to drop fine arts and athletics courses from counting towards their GPAs. Although a step in the right direction in encouraging students to follow their interests, the district has a long way to go in championing the pursuit of these interests and fairly reflecting effort in rankings.
Utilizing a weighted GPA system on a 6.0 scale, AP and Pre-AP classes are given a weight of 6.0, while on-level classes are weighted at 5.0. The problem is that on-level does not just mean the base version of core classes, but essentially all classes that aren’t AP: from orchestra to Newspaper III and architecture to engineering.
With the senior class’ top 10 percent cut off at a GPA of 5.137, scoring even a 100 in an on-level class will count as 5.0 for GPA consideration. This hinders any student’s chance from reaching the top 10 percent as it keeps their average from reaching 5.137. This leads many students vying for a rank to choose classes only for their 6.0 weight rather than crafting a well-rounded schedule. However, students should not have to sacrifice the chance to try new things for their rank.
Frisco ISD has exceptional opportunities with dozens of career oriented classes offered by the CTE Center, but with almost every course having a 5.0 weight, students’ grades suffer at the expense of these programs. Students with a full schedule mixed with AP and challenging CTE classes will almost always have a lower GPA than students taking 6.0 weighted core classes, two free periods, and potentially doing substantially less work.
It’s ironic that the district offers so many outstanding opportunities, but punishes students grade-wise for actually taking advantage of them. On the other hand, students only selecting classes for a certain GPA are rewarded for playing the system. Rather than letting this occur, it is up to the district to eliminate the consequences of taking work intensive on-level courses, not just fine arts and athletics.
Assigning weights to classes is evidently no simple task. With well over 100 very different high school courses of varying difficulty and time-commitment, many weights will not reflect students’ effort in their GPA. Despite this, it must be understood that a class’ weight is not the same as it’s value.
A daily example of this can be found in the Wingspan newsroom as several editors and reporters, through tackling tough stories, writing, editing, and long nights posting, is more work than any AP class taken, and will prove to be extremely impactful. However as far as GPA is concerned, this class and other “on-level” classes are not held to the same standard for simply not beginning with “AP.”
Although there will never be a perfect ranking system, the district has a chance to make the playing field more level. Starting with the next graduating class, the district must allow students to drop one on-level elective course each year from counting to their GPA. This is owed to both students who sacrificed their grades for exploring interests and high ranked students who feel they can’t try something new.