Grads can attain better than 4.0

Published 9:35 am Friday, September 18, 2009

Six Albert Lea High School students received a 4.0 GPA to be the valedictorians of the class of 2009. But students could see a GPA of 4.1 or 4.2 as early as this year on their report cards.

That’s because the high school has changed to a weighted grading system. This means students who take advanced placement classes can earn a higher GPA for college level classes to reward students for taking more rigorous work.

“It honors those students who are taking college-level work,” said Principal Al Root.

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The change only affects college level classes. Under weighted grades, the earned GPA for college-level classes is raised one point. For example, an A in a college level class is a 5.0, while it’s typically a 4.0 in other classes. A B in a college level class earns a 4.0, as opposed to a 3.0 in other classes.

Weighted grades will start with the class of 2011 — this year’s juniors. Along with weighted grades, the valedictorian system will be replaced with academic honors: students with a GPA of 4.0 or above earn summa cum laude status, with a GPA of 3.85-3.99 earn magna cum laude, and with a GPA of 3.7-3.84 earn cum laude.

“What we liked about that is instead of just four to six students maybe being honored, we have a number of students that are going to come up with an award for being a 4.0,” Root said.

Current seniors, the class of 2010, will remain under the valedictorian system.

Rewarding students for taking rigorous courses has been a concern at the high school for a number of years. Students taking college level courses could lose their 4.0 GPA, while students taking less challenging courses could maintain a higher GPA.

This change will alleviate the stress of getting an A in every course. Root said the most difficult conference he had recently was with a student who lost a 4.0 GPA with an A minus in a course.

One A minus over four years of high school dropped students from having a 4.0.

After the 2008-09 school year, the valedictorians for the class of 2009 said they were happy to be relieved of the stress of maintaining a 4.0.

“I just remember in sixth grade, I got a B one time in spelling, and I kind of freaked out a little bit, but it’s just sixth grade, so it didn’t really matter,” said 2009 valedictorian Cody Hanson.

Root said students sometimes focus too much on their GPAs when preparing for college.

“I think the thing students get hung up on is GPA,” Root said. “I think the colleges, first of all, the main thing they’re looking at is the rigor of your classes.”

Colleges also look at ACT and SAT scores along with a student’s extracurricular activities.

“Students get hung up on, ‘My GPA is 3.0. Will I get in?’ If you compare, a lot of different schools, even in Minnesota, have a lot of different systems that are used. So a university has to have a system of looking at a number of factors that then determine what students get accepted,” Root said.

Transfer students’ grades will likely have to be converted to match the system, which would likely happen for students transferring from Albert Lea to a new school. For those students, Root said the school would have to send a student’s records to the new school with an explanation of the grade point system. Converting grades is not uncommon. Root said the school converts grades for transfer students who come from schools under a trimester system.