The Great Debate: Unweighted vs. Weighted GPAs

SONY DSCby Kelly Du

Many students here at BHS strive to be on the coveted list: High Honors. This past quarter though, after report cards were sent out and red and white cards were distributed, many students were left confused and frustrated.

“Since freshman year, I’ve gotten high honors until this year. I had a couple B’s in my AP classes, but I still should have gotten high honors with a weighted GPA. I was surprised,” said senior Mamta Bhandari.

Most people are familiar that honors and AP classes bring up GPAs, but this year, the grading system has changed.

“Grades to determine honors and high honors were unweighted, and high honors is met with a GPA of 3.7,” stated guidance counselor Mrs. Cameron.

Now that grades are unweighted, AP and honors classes don’t create as much weight; grades aren’t adjusted to reflect the level of class difficulty. Therefore, having a B in an AP class is just the same as having a B in a standard class. In addition to this change, grades are now used on a 4.0 scale instead of the old 18.0 scale.

So what caused this to all occur?

According to assistant principal Mr. Briganti, these changes occurred at the request of many students and parents. “The 18.0 scale was becoming too confusing as many people didn’t understand what it meant in comparison to the standard 4.0 scale. We wanted to make it so that everyone could understand it and see where they stand.”

In addition, for most high schools and universities, an A and A+ equal a 4.0. But at BHS, an A will equal a 4.0 and an A+ will be a 4.3. The extra 0.3 is considered an added bonus for students that are able to achieve such a remarkable grade in a class.

As for unweighted GPAs, Briganti stated that, “It goes back to Branford High School’s philosophy about having the same, even playing field for everyone. It helps students that normally don’t get honors to receive it.” All students will then feel equal in all classes.

This school philosophy does ring true. Ten years ago in 2002, Branford High School dropped class rankings in order for colleges to look past GPAs, SATs, and AP courses, and to focus more on the individual student. At the time, former principal Edmund Higgins said that, “The silent majority have said this is for their benefit.”

But this doesn’t mean that weighted GPAs are gone forever. BHS will still have unweighted and weighted GPAs to compare and use for its own use. Weighted GPAs will be used to send out to colleges, and especially when determining the top percentiles of students in each grade.

Ultimately, Briganti warned that when colleges receive students’ GPAs, they “take that weighted GPA and change it to fit into what the college’s own GPA system is like to get an understanding of what it means at their own college.”

This is still a much talked about topic as it divides the country on the benefits of having either unweighted or weighted GPAs. What do you think?