Weighted grading changes concern some parents

Changes to the grading system at one local high school could mean fewer students will challenge themselves with honors classes, parents said.

Fewer than 10 parents spoke at Clark-Pleasant’s school board meeting Tuesday night, where the board discussed changes to the high school’s weighted grading system. The change reduced the number of classes with extra credit toward a student’s GPA. Starting next year, Advanced Placement and dual-credit courses will be the only classes that carry weighted grades for the class of 2019. Honors and pre-AP courses no longer will receive additional weight.

Parents are concerned that the new policy will lead to students choosing more basic classes instead of challenging themselves, since they get no added weight in their GPA for taking harder classes. They worry students will take an easier course so they can earn a higher grade, parents said.

“I just don’t understand the rationale of trying to take away (the incentive) that will help encourage kids,” parent Mary Cloud said.

AP or dual-credit courses eventually will be offered in every field, including agriculture, music and art, Whiteland Community High School Principal Tom Zobel said. The goal is to have each senior graduate with nine college credits.

“The fact that if they are taking it at an elevated level or an accelerated level, they’ll be better prepared for the dual-credit or AP courses once they get there,” Zobel said.

The high school offers 14 AP courses and 17 dual-credit options, but classes will be added this fall, Clark-Pleasant director of curriculum Cameron Rains said.

School board members discussed the concerns but approved next year’s handbook 4-1. The handbook includes an updated list of which classes receive extra credit. The school board does not vote on which classes are weighted; high school administrators make that decision, Rains said.

School board member Butch Zike voted against the change. He and other parents questioned what would encourage kids to take an honors class, as opposed to any other class.

Parent Jamie Miller, who has an incoming freshman and a soon-to-be senior at the high school, said her son is questioning why he should take honors classes if it could hurt his GPA in the long run. Miller’s son wants to apply to out-of-state schools, including Duke University, and she wonders how he will stack up compared with the thousands of other applicants.

Clark-Pleasant needs to offer the most options to students, parent Rachel Thacker said. Her daughter wants to be an FBI agent and already knows that she has to take many higher-level courses and perform well on standardized testing, Thacker said.

But even though her daughter wants to push herself, Thacker does not think that removing the weight for honors courses is the answer.

“We are not competitive, and we need to get competitive, because our kids deserve the best,” Thacker said.