Seattle Courant

Seattle School Board May Drop 2.0 GPA Requirement to Graduate

School Board President Michael DeBell
By Ryan Burr
April 20, 2009 11:04AM

School board President Michael DeBell strongly favors policy that will encourage students to take challenging advanced placement and other classes.

“The additional credits are designed to reflect the difficulty of the courses and to ensure students don’t chose not to take these courses for fear it will hurt their GPA,” he said.

The high school reform committee began meeting in the 2007-08 school year to determine what, if any, revisions to high school grading and graduation were warranted. A recently released survey of more than 4,000 parents, students, district staff and the general public showed firm support for most of the changes, including providing high school credit to middle school students taking high school courses.

Survey respondents, as a majority, did not favor tossing the GPA requirement for graduation and athletic eligibility. However, high school principals and head counselors, along with middle school counselors, supported the elimination. Ultimately, the reform committee unanimously backed the policy change.

In an interview on Friday, Shannon McMinimee, senior assistant to the district’s general counsel, explained some of the rational for removing a GPA graduation requirement. The state doesn’t mandate that students have a certain GPA to graduate, and no other district has a GPA threshold with the type of point-tallying system Seattle Public Schools has for determining a GPA. For instance, an “E” for failure in a course had been calculated the same as an “N” for no credit, meaning none of the course grade was being figured into GPA.

To simplify and enhance transparency in the grading process and graduation requirements, McMinimee said these changes are necessary.

“Students will have a better sense of how they compare to their peers when applying to colleges” by streamlining the GPA calculation process, she said, adding that a majority of school districts in the state also grade using an 11-point, weighted formula. “A five-point system allows for a more dramatic drop in GPA, whereas going from an ‘A’ to an ‘A-’ isn’t as dramatic.”

These policy changes will be introduced at the school board’s regular meeting starting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the board’s office on Third Avenue. More discussion is scheduled for a workshop on April 29, with final action expected on May 6.

If the school board ultimately adopts all the policy changes, they would likely take effect immediately. One exception could be the 11-point, weighted grade formula, which some survey respondents say they would like to be implemented beginning with the class of 2013.

A cost estimate for the policy revisions is $120,400, attributed to hiring a contractor who would update the district’s computer systems that record grades.