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January 20th, 2005

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stupid high school policies

I went to a public high school that had a somewhat unusual (and, in my opinion, stupid) way of calculating grade point averages.

I think the standard way that GPAs are supposed to work in the US is that for each course a student takes he or she is given four points for each A, three points for each B, two points for each C, and one point for each D. Then the total is divided by the number of courses taken, yielding a score somewhere between 0 and 4.

Not so at my high school. There there were three categories of classes: 'Honors' level (which were supposed to be the hardest), 'College' level (which were supposed to be of 'normal' difficulty), and 'Standard' level (which were supposed to be particularly easy). When calculating GPAs, honors courses were worth an extra point and standard courses were worth one point less.

I checked my high school's website and they have the student handbook online, which allowed me to verify that this stupid policy is still in place. It contains the following table. (Note also that unlike the classic GPA-calculating method given above extra points were given for a + and points were subtracted for - grades.)
A+     4.3      5.3     3.3
A      4.0      5.0     3.0
A-     3.7      4.7     2.7
B+     3.3      4.3     2.3
B      3.0      4.0     2.0
B-     2.7      3.7     1.7
C+     2.3      3.3     1.3
C      2.0      3.0     1.0
C-     1.7      2.7     0.7
D+     1.3      2.3     0.3
D      1.0      2.0     0.0
D-     0.7      1.7     0.0
F      0.0      0.0     0.0
The result of this was that if you wanted to be valedictorian you would avoid college-level courses like the plague, and the thought of taking a standard-level course would never cross your mind, even if the courses in question were about things you were interested in. (I think psychology was only available as a college-level course, for instance. I actually took psych my senior year and I think I got some sort of C, but I still managed to graduate with a 5.05 GPA. I was valedictorian that year, but only because my class was full of slackers, relatively speaking -- in the years before and after me the valedictorian would typically have a GPA in the 5.2+ range, and usually there would be one or two other students hot on his or her heels.)

Anyway, even though I benefitted from these stupid policies, they still annoy me.

I believe that some years after I graduated my calculus teacher succeeded in convincing the administration that if the top two students' GPAs different by .01 points or less that there was no meaningful distinction to be made between them and they should both be given the honor of valedictorian, a feat which I think is pretty impressive.
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April 2017



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