Weighted GPAs: Make the change

Valedictorian is the most prestigious award a graduate can earn. It is the culmination of four years of diligent dedication to academic success, and it honors the student who has worked the hardest. At Liberty, it’s all about the pursuit of two simple digits—4 and 0. The problem is, not every path to the top is equally difficult. When a simple number is all that is used, a student with a rigorous, AP-loaded schedule can be ranked equally with someone who still worked hard, but followed the course of least resistance regarding class choices. Weighted GPAs are the simple solution to make up that difference. It’s been brought up in the past, but it’s time that administration finally gets to work and makes the switch.

A common system—used by other schools like Interlake—is a 5-point grading scale. An A in an AP course becomes equivalent to a 5.0, while an A in an Honors class earns a 4.5. This system rewards students who challenge themselves and work much harder by choosing AP and Honors courses. It also provides a boost to those students whose class rank takes a hit when they earn a B in an AP class.

Of course, the hunt for valedictorian is out of reach for the large majority of students, but as any senior applying to competitive colleges knows, class rank can be an important factor in setting students apart. A weighted system rewards students struggling to earn a B+ or A- in an AP class, while their friends cruise through general classes. It would ensure that every student ranked in the top 10%, or top quarter of their class would actually deserve to be there.

Sure, in an actual application, colleges look at the classes a student took (in addition to GPA) to gauge whether they have a genuine passion for learning. However, if balancing rigor and success is the most important feature for colleges, then Liberty should apply the same values to its own ranking system. That way, the number can better show the real story. If an unweighted system must be kept for logistical reasons, then a system like Issaquah’s should be used. Students’ formal ranking is unweighted, but a separate weighted list is released for use in college admissions.

Weighting GPAs is a simple change, and there are few—if any—reasons not to do it. The Patriot Press is calling on Liberty administration to change the current system, and start rewarding students for effort, as well as merit.