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Uniform Grade Point Average poses unintended consequences for the gifted

October 16, 2008
by

The Coppell Gifted Association’s Executive Board recommends that you immediately contact both your state legislators and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) asking that they repeal the Texas Uniform Grade Point Average HB 3851.  The deadline for public comment is Sunday, October 19, 2008.

FYI – Coppell ISD has not yet taken an official position on this topic but the School Board will discuss it at their meeting on Oct. 16, 2008.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF THIS LAW:

Students will have less incentive to take some of the most rigorous courses available to them.  If they avoid the rigorous classes, they risk being less prepared for college.  They also reduce their chances of admission at private colleges, because private colleges look for students who followed a rigorous curriculum.

BACKGROUND:

Coppell ISD, and many other schools around the nation, “weight” GPAs.  More rigorous classes earn more GPA points.  The extra weight helps motivate students to take harder classes, assuming the students desire to achieve a high class ranking.  A high class rank helps with admission to selective colleges.

Coppell ISD currently awards additional GPA points for Advanced Placement (AP), Gifted and Talented (GT), and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses.  Dual credit classes are also weighted, but not as highly as AP, GT, and IB courses.  Other classes that get higher (but not highest) weighting include Pre-AP, Pre-IB and some Career and Technology Education (CATE) courses.

PROPOSED LEGISLATION:

The Texas legislature mandated that all Texas universities use a single, uniform method of calculating student GPAs for admission purposes. Under this proposal, courses that are AP, AP/GT, IB, and dual credit will continue to get weighted higher than on-level courses.  However, the THECB has proposed rules that:

  • Eliminate additional grade points (“weighting”) for pre-AP and pre-IB foundation courses,
  • Weight AP and Dual credit courses equally, even though school districts differ in their perception of the relative rigor of dual credit courses, and
  • Ignore courses in fine arts, economics, and career & technical education for purposes of GPA calculations.

As it stands, this proposal will discourage students from taking some of the most rigorous courses in Coppell ISD because they will not be rewarded in their GPA for the extra academic challenge.   It is even possible that students who elect to take on-level courses will have the same or even higher GPAs than students who sought out extra academic challenge in high school, despite being less prepared for the rigors of college.  This proposal also fails to recognize the value of fine arts and other courses important to development of well-rounded students

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Before finalizing the rules and implementation date, the THECB is taking public comments until October 19.  If your students are in middle school or elementary school, this will definitely affect them as it is scheduled for implementation for students entering 9th grade after May 2009.

  1. Send an email to Natalie Coffey, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board – Natalie.coffey@thecb.state.tx.us
  2. Send an email to your state legislators.  To find out who they are, go to http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us.  Some legislators have links to email forms.

In your emails, explain who you are and that you oppose the proposed changes by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.  In addition, explain that you believe rigor should be recognized in GPA computations, and local school boards should determine GPA weighting based upon their knowledge of the rigor of various courses in their district.  Include your name and address in the email so they know you are a constituent.  We’ve provided suggested language below. Send your emails by Sunday, October 19, 2008, the deadline for public comment on this issue.

SUGGESTED LANGUAGE FOR EMAILS:

I strongly encourage the legislature to repeal the Uniform GPA, HB 3851.  Failing that, I encourage the Commissioner of Higher Education to change the proposed course weightings.

Our schools should prepare our students for the academic rigor they will face in college.  To accomplish this, we should encourage our high school students to take the most rigorous courses they can handle.  GPA weightings affect a student’s course choices, and the proposed system would discourage students from taking the more rigorous courses. The current proposal will force students to choose between the most academically rigorous path and the avenue that will give them the best chance at landing in the top 10% of their class. This is an irresponsible and ridiculous choice to force upon our students at the beginning of their 9th grade year.

Local school districts are in the best position to know which courses are most rigorous at their high school campuses and what they need to do to incent students to take those courses.  I suspect most districts will conclude that their Pre-AP and Pre-IB classes are more rigorous than their on-level classes. Some schools may believe certain CATE courses are somewhat or highly rigorous as well.

If we are to increase the rigor of a Texas education by motivating students to take the most demanding classes available to them, local school boards need to weight GPA based upon rigorous classes their district offers.  One approach will not work for every school district.

/your name/

/your address & city/

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Summary on CISD website

THECB proposed rules & public hearing transcripts

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