Grade Point Averages
For students in high school, especially in their junior and senior years, class standing or “class rank” can be an important consideration. Remember Ann’s story from Chapter 1. Students and their parents can get very emotionally involved in a number that is not terribly meaningful in its own right. The power of the grade point average lies in its uses. Many high schools designate the top student in the class as “valedictorian” and invite him or her to make a speech at graduation. Some schools designate the student ranked second as salutatorian, and this person also sometimes speaks at graduation. Some colleges take class rank into consideration for admission and/or scholarship decisions.
The calculation of grade point averages will be a matter of district policy over which teachers will not have direct control. However, teachers will live with the consequences of that policy and will be the first point of contact for many students and parents with questions. Teachers should understand their district’s grade point policy and its implications. They should be able to describe it clearly to students and parents. Teachers may choose to argue for changes in policies they think are harmful to students.
Any system where there are “winners” and “losers” risks undermining the developmental intentions of education, not to mention risking political firestorms. But the various solutions people have offered have not been very helpful, either. One year, one district decided to designate all students above a certain high grade point average as “valedictorians,” and all 17 of them were seated on the graduation platform! This appeared a bit silly to the community.
In some school systems, class rank is computed by considering the scale A = 4.00, B = 3.00, C = 2.00, D = 1.00, F = 0.00, weighting each by the number of course credits each grade reflects (typically 1.0 for a high school academic course and sometimes 0.5 for electives that do not meet every day). But there are many variations on this theme. Sometimes the grade point average is updated for each report period; sometimes it is updated at the end of the year.
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