Wait no honors weighting?


Review books for AP courses are a common sight among those taking. With the course changes these sights might become less common in favor of actual college classes.

Faith Swarner , Reporter

In effect next year honors weighting will no longer be a part of the Big Spring grading system. Six years ago the school changed from a percentage weighting to the 4.0 scale. This was done because they were taking into account AP classes and the honors weighting. They thought the change would encourage more children to take honors classes without fear or ruining their GPA.  Now the change is once again coming from concern over the AP and honors classes.

Principal, William August said, “In reviewing grade distributions for students in honors classes, it was clear that students were very successful and the overwhelming majority of students were earning either “A’s” or “B’s”.  Far fewer students were receiving even “C’s” or failing when compared to academic level classes. This was likely a function of the wider grade band ranges, so the additional weighting appeared to be unnecessary.”

Some students were not taking AP classes, but instead college classes through the Penn State Program, HACC, or Shippensburg college. Students who take these classes do not receive an extra weighting and there no GPA boost. August said, “By further incentivizing students to take the AP Exam by giving them double the weighting, a number of things occurred.  The first was that we were stating that taking an AP exam was more important or harder than taking an actual college course, which didn’t make a lot of sense.”

Taking a single AP exam costs around $96, and most students taking AP classes take more than more. This means a lot of money has to be set aside to take an AP class, and not all students and their families have the funds. “It was also an equity issue, in that some students make not have been able to afford the cost of AP exams and therefore were missing out on an opportunity to enhance their GPAs.  This was especially true for students who had multiple AP exams to take.” This cost related to the AP exams made many students feel like they were paying for your grade to simply get the GPA boost, and some students who took the exams did not try on them because they were only looking to help their GPA, not get a five on the exam.

August said, “The real question that had to be answered was, ‘What is the purpose of Honors classes?’ The answer seemed to be that they were to help better prepare students for the college experience, build students’ college transcript and that they were to be the bridge to success in AP and Dual Enrollment classes. Students who are planning on attending college should be taking these classes anyway and our grade ranges protect them from GPA harm.  Having said this, Honors classes are still high school level work, and given our structure, students have been and will continue to be successful in them. Once we came to these conclusions, it made sense that AP classes, with their more rigid and rigorous curriculum and the actual college courses that are Dual Enrollment classes, were where students could benefit from weighting. The philosophy becomes very clear in that if it is taught at a college level or can get a student college credit, it deserves to be weighted.”

As from a student point of view, Elizabeth Wilkinson, freshman, said, “I am very upset. As a freshman, it affects me a lot, and as a person who has been in honors classes all of her life, I figured that I would continue to take them in the high school, and when I found out that they were ending weight, I thought it was pretty annoying.” Students like Wilkinson find it will be hard to become motivated to take a harder class because there is not that extra incentive as there was before. Now they feel like taking academic classes so they can ease through them with a high grade and not have to worry about struggling through a harder class for no GPA benefit.

Yet even with the changes to the weight system, many students say they will continue to take honors and AP classes to continue to challenge themselves and be prepared for college, which is exactly what August said, “If college is in the picture, preparing yourself academically and building your college transcript by taking Honors classes is a wise decision, as schools will often look at how much you challenged yourself within the offerings of your school.  Colleges will be aware of our weighting and offerings through the school profile we send them, so they will be able to make informed decisions.” Individual students will have to weigh the pros and cons for themselves before choosing classes, and the effects of this new plan will undoubtedly be seen next year as students start their new classes.