Adopt comprehensive weighted GPA method district-wide

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On November 1, 2016, in response to three petitions with a total of nearly 1,000 signatures, strong student and parent support, data about scholarships, admission, and our benchmark schools, and in support of the district goal of aligning Gunn and Paly, the Palo Alto School Board unanimously voted to include both weighted and unweighted GPAs on current seniors’ transcripts. However, Gunn and Paly each have their own weighted GPA calculation method:

  • Gunn’s method: a comprehensive weighted GPA with all Honors and AP classes given one extra point
  • Paly’s method: a weighted GPA used by UC and CSU which only includes grades 10 and 11, only counts courses that are UC-approved for UC’s a-g requirements, and only gives an extra point for up to 8 semesters of AP and UC-approved honors courses

To align the two schools, we strongly urge the board to adopt the comprehensive method (i.e., Gunn’s method) at both schools for the following reasons:

  1. The comprehensive method ensures that the weighted GPA is never lower than the unweighted GPA because it only adds extra points. The UC weighted GPA can be lower than the unweighted GPA because it doesn’t include all classes.
  2. The comprehensive method is a cumulative GPA, meaning grades from every year of high school are included. A cumulative GPA is required for the nearly 700 Common App colleges and most large out-of-state schools, both for admissions and for scholarships. The UC method doesn’t include 9th grade so it isn’t cumulative and can’t be used at many colleges.
  3. The comprehensive method encourages students to take electives because all classes are included in the calculation. The UC method discourages students from taking electives that are outside UC’s a-g approved course curriculum. Each high school offers electives in more than a dozen different subjects that are NOT UC-approved.
  4. For UC applications, students self-report grades. Only after the student is accepted will UC request an official transcript. Reporting only the UC weighted GPA is unnecessary as well as disadvantageous to students applying to colleges that will only accept a cumulative GPA.

Therefore, we support immediately aligning Gunn’s and Paly’s practices by adopting either of the following practices for reporting weighted GPAs alongside unweighted GPAs on transcripts and on the Common App:

  • Report the comprehensive weighted GPA currently used by Gunn, or alternatively,
  • Report both the comprehensive weighted GPA and the UC/CSU weighted GPA.

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