Electives and playing the GPA game

May 22, 2019

The “GPA game” refers to selective course scheduling where students cut electives or career-specific classes in favor of honor classes which receive 15 quality points. Freshman year, ninth graders meet with counselors to create their class schedules for next three years. For competitive students, achieving a high class rank becomes almost a strategic game, and for good reason. However, this often results in students forgoing useful or enriching electives to take advanced courses.

Electives should not be factored into GPA.

Texas operates under the top ten percent rule where, in the case of the current senior class, the top 55 students receive automatic access to any Texas public college. The University of Texas at Austin is even more competitive, with automatic acceptance at 6% (or the first 33 seniors). Automatic admission may seem like a non-essential luxury, but take UT for example. The generally advertised acceptance rate is 39%, but this includes those who were auto-accepted. The acceptance rate without auto admit stands at 18%. For reference, Cornell’s is 10%. So, when picking out classes as a freshman, courses are often chosen without much thought to quality points and rank. Interests are prioritized over grades, extracurriculars are picked to try not to serve our grades game.

AP, DC, and PreAP classes are awarded 15 extra points. These points are allocated to classes with college prep or college level curriculum. These requirements exclude many time consuming and rigorous classes including practicums, which, upon passing an exam, allow one to practice medicine as an EMT, CNA and more. Marching band, which dedicates roughly 20 hours a week during the fall semester, also isn’t awarded quality points. Making this distinction between classes forces students to choose between sacrificing quality points for more exploratory classes like marketing, advertising, or cooking.

Sacrificing one class for a non quality point course may not seem significant, but the bottom line is, choosing a class not awarded quality points automatically detracts from your GPA and your rank. Playing a sport or practicing an instrument, in our current system, is being punished since you are instantly put at a disadvantage compared to the student taking a DC, AP, or Pre-AP class, and this doesn’t seem fair. The quality point system is placing more importance on core classes, with the intention of being fair. Some school systems, including  moved from the unweighted GPA scale, where all classes are measured the same amount, to the weighted GPA scale to promote equity. Districts across the country, even now, are changing how they weigh GPA including ICCSD, which intends to only adjust for AP class and not honors for the 2019-2020 school year. School districts acknowledged difficulty of classes should be factored into the GPA calculation, but what this transformed to is actually creating a pick and choose mentality. By combining the social and cultural influence to do the best, and have your achievements transferred into numerical values or otherwise known as grades, causes many students to seek out quality point classes, regardless of their wants.

The editorial staff does agree, classes should be weighted differently. Difficulty of a course should be considered, but the system needs tweaking. Consider creating a system where electives do not contribute to GPA at all. This way students need not choose between classes but still gain all the benefits of choosing an advanced class versus a regular one.

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