With many seniors beginning to hear back from their hopeful future universities, those who are rejected or deffered might look in retrospect and wonder what they could have done better. Maybe they could have taken harder classes, maybe done better on the SATs, or, maybe done more extracurricular activities. However, often times none of these were options. Many students, although not always working to their fullest potential, spent their high school careers in the appropriate level of classes for them. Also a number of students took classes to prepare for the SATs. Lastly the Walpole High community is highly active and constantly busy, so the notion of doing more extracurriculars is a bit ridiculous
Sadly, despite their best efforts, students at Walpole High School often find themselves at a disadvantage when their transcripts are compared to students from around the country. This is not because of a lack of quality faculty – it could certainly be argued that Walpole is home to one of the best faculties around – or due to a lack of academic, extracurricular, or athletic opportunities. The problem is that, according to Walpole’s GPI or grade point index, a system that is unique strictly to Walpole and is supposed to be equivalent to the standard GPA or grade point average, a student who spends his entire career receiving straight 99s in all on level, CPI classes (Walpole HIgh School’s GPI does not account for students receiving a 100 in any class) will only graduate with a 3.64 GPI. Walpole High claims this GPI is equivalent to other schools GPA.
This system was created years ago when Ed Terly was still head of the Guidance Department. He and math teacher Burt Cady formatted the system to give weight to the higher level classes and to help calculate class rank. Interesting when making this grading format, it had little connection to any of the more nationally used GPA systems. A more effective, more popular system is used at nearby Stoughton High School as well as at a number of other area schools. At Stoughton High, an A in a CP1 class is a 4.0, an A in an honors class is a 4.5 and an A in an AP class is a 5. 0. Thus the coveted 4.0 is attainable by most students as long as they are willing to put in the effort. Similarly, another popular system awards a 4.0 to an A in CP1, a 5.0 for an A in honors, and a 6.0 for an A in AP. Also their system only vaguely lines up with the Massachusetts State college grading system, which awards a 4.3 for an +A, a 4.0 for an A, a 3.7 for an -A and so on. Remember this is when classes do not have declared levels of varying difficulty (AP, honors CP1 and so forth). All the classes in the college realm are on the same level.
As many people know, the perfect GPA is 4.0. Often times when talking to kids on campuses across the nation, students point out that their GPA was at or above 4.0. However, Walpole High School guidance says that there has never been a student at Walpole High to ever receive a 4.0. Meanwhile at nearby Framingham high school a student has a 4.2 GPA, which he admits number-grade-wise is only about a 90 average in all of his classes. It also should be noted that this student has taken on level and honors classes with only the occasional AP class. In contrast, Walpole High School’s top senior this year only has just over a 3.9 GPA.
The way Walpole’s system works, if a student takes only AP classes for his or her entire high school career and gets all 99s, then the student would graduate with a 4.28 GPI (GPA). However, AP classes are not even offered to students until their sophomore year and only one is offered that year. This setup means that they must be taking honors classes in the meantime if they wish to graduate with anything close to 4.0 GPA. Again, a problem arises because you need a 100 in all honors classes to have a 4.0. While at first glance this seems reasonable, it should be noted that this means that the base level grade is not done off the on level class but off an honors class. Because you can only get a 4.0 when you are in an honors class, this makes honors the base level for grading. For this reason, all average students should be in honors classes, since honors is the base for grading. Thus students in CP1 classes are under average because even their best grades can only earn them a 3.64. Also, because the GPI system does not account for receiving a 100, according to the sheet used to GPI calculation the highest score a student can receive in honors is a 3.96, not even a 4.0, which is only attainable in an AP class. But according to the Walpole High School Handbook, CP1 is the average level class.
“The system could always be better, but the first thing colleges do when they get your transcript is recalculate your GPA,” pointed out guidance counselor Mrs. Jennifer Dolan. However, with colleges receiving tens of thousands of applications, it seems a bit unlikely that they take the time to recalculate eveyr single students GPA to match their grading system. Also, when reading all of these transcripts, just as with a job interview, the first impression is key. When your GPA comes in reading 4.6, regardless of recalculation later down the line, it inarguably looks more impressive than a 3.8. Also, with many schools moving away from class rank, GPA becomes all that more important.
Walpole’s GPI specifically hurts athletes as well. For athletes, often times their ability to be recruited depends on them meeting a certain criteria for GPA. All D1 schools follow NCAA regulation minimums while schools like those in the Ivy League have even higher standards. In this situation, the GPA is not recalculated. Thus Walpole’s lower GPI system is hurting its athlete filled populous because it is deflating the students work, making their grades earn them less point on the GPA scale.
The system was built on the notion that it would give additional weight to the more difficult class. However, when comparing to the GPA systems from other schools, students at Walpole high have their GPAs low balled. As earlier stated, students who receive an A in an honors class at Walpole High receive a GPI of between 3.6 and 3.96, but if they were over at Stoughton, then their GPA would read between 4.2 and 4.5. Also, at Walpole, the grade drop between AP and honors or honors and CP1 is 8 points. If you drop out of an honors class because you had a 74, your grade would instantly becomes an 82. Yet students through out Walpole high readily admit that the shift in grades is not an accurate reflection of the drop in difficulty. There are stories of students dropping out of demanding honors classes into a CP1 class and having their grade rise anywhere from 20 to 30 points from their former grade in honors. The discrepancy in work load between the different levels of classes is another contributor to the inaccuracy of the GPI.
“A board has been created to evaluate the growing gap between CP1 and honors,” said Mrs. Dolan. “The eight point swing is not the issue, but instead the issue is the reason for the growing discrepancy.” Walpole is now looking into adjusting the expectations in work loads to make them better reflect the 8 point swing established in the GPI. However, this attempt still does not solve the problem.
With all of these numbers of GPA and GPI flying around, the real question is are Walpole High School students really being negatively impacted by Walpole’s GPI system? In short, the answer is an emphatic YES. With class rank being phased out because, as guidance cites, “students should only have to compete against themselves” – not exactly a very American, capitalistic, real world approach to things – and “the emotional health of kids,” GPA has an increased role. Yet at Walpole High, where the work load and class expectations are high, students at all levels are being undercut on their GPA. Also, GPA in all circumstances is not always an accurate representation of your academic ability and performance in high school, but this is especially the case at Walpole, where a student can make honor roll with straight 80s in all honors classes for their entire high school career, and only graduate with a 3.2 GPA. So after all those years that parents pushed their kids to make honor roll and the child did, now it turns out that their 3.2 is on the low end of the accepted GPA of schools across the country, and just above the bare bones minimum 2.75 that is instituted as a requirement by the NCAA for all athletes to be eligible for college sports. Similarly, colleges are beginning to not always require that you submit you SAT or ACT scores, so what do they have to look at? A students GPA. With the gap in class difficulty growing, students in lower level classes are finding it harder to make the jump into higher level classes. Thus by the time they are juniors, even if they are able to move up levels, the GPA’s have already suffered sufficiently, simply because they were in on level classes. A rather sad state of affairs indeed.
The Walpole High School Mission Statement says, “this endeavor [to foster learning] provides opportunities … to achieve academic and personal goals” (Walpole High School Student Parent Handbook page 18). If the goal is ot provide opportunities for academic achievement, presumably establishing a foundation for a college education, then Walpole has dropped the ball.