District Dossier

Taking Weight off GPAs With Electives

Texas district aims to encourage students to explore interests.

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How do you encourage high-achieving teenagers to take electives like art or music when honors-level academic classes can boost their grade point averages higher?

The Wylie, Texas, school district’s solution is to stop counting electives in GPA calculations. Because of a July 16 vote of the district school board, the GPAs of this fall’s freshmen will reflect only the grades they earn in English, mathematics, social studies, science, and foreign-language classes.

The district wanted to encourage students to explore their interests without bringing down their GPAs, said TJ Theisen, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the 10,000-student district northeast of Dallas.

Too often, upperclassmen jockeying for high class ranking would trade an A in theater, which carries 4 points, for an A in honors physics, which carries 5, officials said.

“Do you want a well-rounded person, or one that just takes honors courses because they’re honors courses?” said school board President Susan Shuler.

Ms. Theisen said the new calculation will be used only for the “local weighted” GPA, which influences class rank and eligibility for local scholarships. Students’ transcripts still will list each course taken and grade received.

Texas’ 1,034 districts are free to calculate GPA as they see fit. Some districts near Wylie factor only core courses into the GPA; others include all courses.

A law signed by Gov. Rick Perry on June 15 requires the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which oversees the state university system, to devise a standard method for computing students’ GPAs.

Board spokesman Dominic M. Chavez said school districts would not have to adopt that method. The extent of its use for university admissions has not yet been worked out, he said, but the board will most likely continue to accept districts’ own GPA calculations under Texas’ “top 10 percent” rule, which guarantees admission to the state university system to that portion of each school’s graduating class.

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See other stories on education issues in Texas. See data on Texas' public school system.

Vol. 26, Issue 44, Page 5

Published in Print: August 1, 2007, as Taking Weight off GPAs With Electives

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