by Sarah Wei & Alexa Zou, News Editor, News Reporter
graphic by Amanda Fu
Newton Public Schools (NPS) has removed the weighted grade-point average (GPA) scale from high school transcripts. Moving forward, weighted GPAs will be omitted from every grade at South.
In the spring of 2020, NPS formed the High School GPA Committee to reassess student transcripts, particularly in consideration of changes COVID-19 inflicted on high school education and college admissions. The committee released its decision in a public report on Jan. 16 after months of deliberation and analysis.
Nancy Decoteau, Jillian Hall and Beth Swederskas–GPA committee members and staff of Newton North’s counseling department–wrote in a March 30 email that a crucial factor in the decision was a possible education equity imbalance.
“Some students with learning differences, some English language learners and some other groups of students have less options in their course selection processes and fewer opportunities to take more weighted classes,” they said. “This puts them at an unfair disadvantage when being compared to their peers.”
In their public report, the committee wrote that recent changes in grading systems and course recommendations due to the pandemic also heavily contributed to the decision. They wrote that the unconventional school year contributed to less reliable and accurate weighted GPAs.
The committee also said that since a majority of freshman classes are Advanced College Prep (ACP) level, calculating a weighted GPA would be disadvantageous to students.
Committee member, college and guidance counselor Kathleen Sabet said that the effect of weighted GPAs on college applications was another key factor. The committee surveyed 85 colleges nationwide about their preferences towards GPA submissions, both during the pandemic and under normal circumstances.
Sabet said the survey indicated that weighted GPAs do not make a difference in the eyes of college admission officers, as most colleges recalculate weighted GPAs based on their own standards.
“We did extensive research and gained feedback from a wide range of college admissions representatives who overwhelmingly agree that a weighted GPA is not necessary,” she said. “Most colleges recalculate [weighted GPAs].”
Decoteau, Hall and Swederskas said that the committee also considered the detrimental effects that weighted GPAs could impose on student mental health.
“The GPA committee felt as though students were getting overly obsessed with GPAs and potentially pushing themselves too hard just to increase the weight potential in their GPA,” they said. “For many students, it became unhealthy and had a negative impact on their mental health.”
The South community had a mixed reaction to the committee’s decision.
South parent Jia Yonghui said that she believes the removal of weighted GPAs could hurt students’ academic motivation.
“The removal of weighted GPA will likely discourage students from electing honors or AP classes, and the end effect is that they are learning less than they are expected to,” she said.
Sophomore Dan Bahar said that he would rather students have the ability to make their own decision. “Students should be able to choose whatever they want,” he said. “I would prefer if I had the choice to calculate my weighted GPA rather than get rid of it completely.”
Sophomore Audrey Wei said that she understands the committee’s reasoning in removing weighted GPAs, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has caused many challenges in daily life, leading to changes in grading systems and processes in general, which could make an unweighted GPA more reflective of a student’s academics this year,” she said.
Considering all factors and opinions, Sabet said that at the end of the day, the committee’s decision represents students’ best interests.
“All the feedback concluded that there are no cons to dropping a weighted GPA,” she said. “We would never make a recommendation that would disadvantage our students in the college admissions process.”