I am writing with some information about the new grading scale, which you will notice on Quarter 1 report cards for students in 2nd-9th grade. Since the first grade reports for the year just came out, I thought a brief explanation of why the grading scale is changing, and how it affects our students would be helpful.
Over the summer our charter school district, Responsive Education Solutions, asked that beginning with this year’s 9th graders we adopt the grading scale which is used in all RES schools. We have permission to continue using the original grading scale for current 10th, 11th, and 12th graders, phasing it out as they graduate. The only reason for this change is to bring our school in line with the 70+ others others under the ResponsiveEd umbrella.
The new grading scale was published in August in the 2018-2019 Family Handbook, which can be accessed via the FCA Leander website.
Here is the information from page 16 of the 2018-2019 Family Handbook:
Although it may seem more demanding than our previous grading policy, this scale provides greater accuracy in GPA calculation without altering the criteria by which grades are assigned. Please see the information below about GPA calculation and how it is used by schools internally, and in the college application process. I hope that it will help assuage any fears about how the new scale might affect your student.
I understand that the new grading scale came as a surprise to many families, and for this I apologize. I can see that we should have communicated more clearly about the change and provided parents with the opportunity to ask questions earlier in the year.
Though changes like this can be disconcerting, our school is the same school it has been since 2014, committed to the study of the liberal arts for their own sake and interested in cultivating virtue in our students above all else. As always, if you are concerned about something as important as this, please let me or Ms. Loy know directly. We are happy to discuss the matter with you in person, on the phone, or by email, and it is important to us that we have the chance to answer questions when you have them.
Dr. Kathleen O’Toole
Frequently Asked Questions About GPA
What is a GPA, and how is it calculated?
GPA stands for “grade point average,” and it is a calculated average that represents the grades you have earned in your high school career.
When you take a class at Founders, you earn some combination of letter grades (A, A-, B+, B, etc.) and percentile grades (97%, 89%, 75%, etc.) for your work in that class. At the end of the semester you receive a percentile grade.
Your percentile grade is converted to points using a GPA scale. Your scaled score is then multiplied by the number of credits the course is worth. A cumulative (total) GPA is then arrived at.
How does our GPA scale compare to other schools in our area?
The short answer is: it doesn’t, because GPA is an internal method of comparing students within the same school, not useful for comparing students attending different schools.
The public schools in our area use a variety of methods to calculate GPA. Leander ISD calculates an unweighted (4.0 scale) and weighted (5.0 scale) GPA. Round Rock ISD uses a graduated 5.0 scale for regular classes and a graduated 6.0 scale for AP/IB classes. An excellent student might have a GPA of 3.65 at one high school and with the exact same grades have a GPA of 4.8 or 5.3 at a different school!
Here is one important difference between our grading scale and the scales used by surrounding schools: At Founders, under both the original and new grading scales, a student may graduate with a 4.0 without earning a perfect 100% in every course.
What’s the difference between weighted and unweighted GPA?
There are variables which must be taken into account when considering students’ GPAs. Not all high schools use the same GPA scale — and even when they do, many use weighted systems (perhaps giving extra “points” to grades from honors, accelerated, International Baccalaureate, or Advanced Placement classes), and employ varying methods of calculating a cumulative GPA.
Founders Classical Academy of Leander chooses to attach additional weight to some classes due to the rigor of the curriculum and to give our students the credit they deserve for taking challenging classes. We also attach additional weight to our AP classes.
At our school, we think of a student’s weighted GPA as a way of communicating the rigor of our courses to the outside world, while the unweighted GPA allows us a more accurate way to communicate with parents and among teachers about a student’s progress in school. For example, Founders uses students’ unweighted GPAs to determine class rank for Valedictorian, Salutatorian and assured admission to Texas public universities (top 6 -10%).
Founders includes both the weighted and unweighted GPA on our students’ transcripts.
How do colleges take a student’s GPA into consideration?
Colleges no longer rely solely on GPAs as a measure of academic performance. Unweighted or weighted – they know how to account for the difference, and they will dive into the transcript when looking at GPAs to understand what your course load actually looked like. In addition, when considering your GPA, college admission officers frequently un-weight and then re-weight it according to their own scale. Why? It helps them arrive at a better comparative method.
The bottom line: Because schools in the same area vary widely in how they calculate GPA, colleges cannot measure students on the basis of GPA alone. GPA is a tool for comparing students’ academic careers within the same institution, not a tool for comparing all students who apply to a particular college.
Here’s a little perspective on GPA as part of the college admission process:
So what should you do if you’re taking a demanding academic program at a public high school that does not weight grades, or a private school that is notorious for giving out tough grades and not weighting them? Adopt a more positive outlook on the grading morass. What is most important to colleges, and should be most important to you, is the quality of your courses.
If you challenge yourself by taking the toughest classes you can handle, especially in your areas of strength and interest, colleges will pick up on what you have accomplished. They will reward you for stretching yourself, and will find a way to give you “credit” for doing well in a strong academic program.
Howard and Matthew Greene, hosts of two PBS college-planning programs and authors of the Greens’ Guides to Education Planning series and other books
As always, please contact me or Ms. Loy if you would like to discuss any of this further. We are very happy to hear questions and concerns and to have the opportunity to speak directly with parents.