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Decatur proposes new GPA rules for sophomores

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Incoming Decatur High School sophomores may find themselves under the new grade-point average rules the school board recently approved for freshmen.

Back in March, trustees approved changes in the way grade-point averages are calculated. The six-point scale will be eliminated, and only advanced courses such as pre-AP, AP and dual-credit courses will carry a potential five points. Core classes – English, math, science, social studies and a foreign language – will be on the four-point scale.

The changes are designed to give students more flexibility in their schedules and allow them to take courses based on their interests rather than just to boost their GPA, administrators said in March.

Under the old system, students entered a dual credit and an AP course on a five-point scale. If a student successfully completed the AP exam, he or she was bumped up to the six-point scale.

When the changes were approved in March, the change applied only to incoming freshman rather than students who have already started taking high school courses under the old GPA system.

Incoming juniors and seniors will continue to use the old GPA calculations, but Monday, the board considered applying the new GPA calculation to sophomores as well as incoming freshmen.

“The real advantage I see, from a curriculum standpoint, is we are going to have some sophomores who may want to get into pathways for graduation, and if they do, they are more likely to do it when they have this (new) GPA calculation in place instead of the other one where they are playing the game, choosing the courses to get the best GPA rather than pursuing their passions through those pathways,” said Judi Bell, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

The pathways she referenced stems from a new education law taking effect this fall. House Bill 5 laid out five different endorsements – or pathways – for schools to offer. Those include:

  • STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics),
  • public services,
  • business and industry,
  • arts and humanities, and
  • multidisciplinary studies.

Schools are required to offer at least one of those endorsements.

Bell explained that last year’s freshmen courses will be calculated on the old scale while this year’s sophomores will move to the new scale, creating a sort of hybrid calculation system for that class.

High school counselor Neal Hall said the GPA change might cause a few students to make schedule changes for the coming year, but he expects it won’t affect the scheduling of the majority of students.

With school scheduled to start in a month, board member Diane Mosley said she wanted to make sure parents of incoming sophomores were given information about the changes and allowed to give feedback.

“I’d like to give the community an opportunity, especially the parents of the sophomores, to be informed of those changes,” she said. ” … They are three years away from graduation and have already made some decisions. I’d like to get that out to the community before we make some decisions.”

Other board members said they liked the proposal and were ready to move forward.

“I’m fine going ahead with it,” trustee Jeff Elder said. “There will always be negatives along the way no matter what we do. … This is going to smooth some things out. It’s going to take some gamesmanship out of it. It’s going to make it easier for parents to figure it out. Plus, I’ve talked to a lot of people already, parents and teachers both, and everyone’s been really in favor of it.”

Ultimately, the board decided to have administrators write up a new policy on the new grade point average calculations applying to incoming sophomores and bring it back for board approval in a few weeks. In the meantime, the school will notify the parents of incoming sophomores in order to get their feedback.

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