RSU 39 school board votes in favor of weighted grades at Caribou High School

2 years ago

CARIBOU, Maine — Caribou High School will adopt a new grading system that administrators hope will create more equity and provide reasons for students to take more rigorous classes.

The RSU 39 school board voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of starting a weighted grade system at Caribou High School, beginning with the 2022-2023 school year.

Under the new system, members of the incoming freshman class will see four points added to their grade point average if they pass advanced placement classes, and two points added to any dual-enrollment or honors class.

CHS Principal Eric McGough and student council vice president Jadynn Blackstone-Eye presented findings from 10 months of research conducted on various options for weighted grading systems during the board meeting.

Unlike unweighted grading, a weighted grade system takes into account the difficulty level of courses and typically places more points on a student’s grade point average when they complete higher-level courses. 

Advanced Placement classes have more rigorous coursework and often qualify students for college credit or more advanced courses upon entering college.

Dual enrollment means that students can take college and university courses while still in high school and earn credits toward their degree. Honors classes are more similar to regular course,s but typically go more in depth in their subject areas.

Blackstone-Eye was one of three students who originally proposed to the board last year that the high school adopt weighted grades. She compared the results of a survey that she and the students conducted last year with a new survey that includes the current freshman class.

Last year 86 percent of students were in support of weighted grades while 14 percent were opposed. Most recently, 77 percent of students were in favor while 23 percent were opposed.

“Students wanted weighted grades mainly to provide incentive for advanced classes,” Blackstone-Eye said. “Students taking regular classes might be more motivated to take advanced classes.”

Blackstone-Eye was part of a committee of students and staff members who tested nine models of weighted grade systems on students’ grade point averages. The group found that adding four points to Advanced Placement and adding two for dual-enrollment and honors classes produced the most equitable class rankings.

Although the group considered using a 4.0 scale instead of a 0-100 scale, the latter model also produced more accurate class standings when applied to final grades from the Class of 2021.

“We considered only giving more points to AP courses, but that does not encourage students to take challenging courses that aren’t AP,” Blackstone-Eye said. “We also considered weighing AP and dual enrollment equally, but that did not reward students taking honors classes.”

After board member Jan Tompkins asked why weighted grades would begin with next year’s freshmen students, and not sophomores, McGough explained the committee’s choice.

Prior to their freshman year, eighth-grade students meet with guidance counselors to decide what courses they will take in high school. Many students make decisions about how many Advanced Placement or higher level courses they will take at that time. That means current students have already made course decisions based on the unweighted grading system, McGough said. 

“Students [already in high school] have made decisions operating under a certain set of rules. We felt strongly that it isn’t fair to change the rules for students who are already playing the game,” McGough said.

Although most colleges request transcripts with weighted grades, McGough noted that the school can provide students transcripts with both forms of grading. Under the new system, the Class of 2026 will be the first group of students to have weighted and unweighted grades provided to their chosen colleges.

In other business, the school board re-elected Tanya Sleeper and Tompkins to their roles of board chair and vice chair, respectively. All board members except Bethany Anderson attended the Feb. 9 meeting.

The next school board meeting will occur at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 2. All meetings are held at the Caribou Performing Arts Center unless otherwise noted on the agenda.