To Lower Student Stress, MHS Changes GPA Scale

To Lower Student Stress, MHS Changes GPA Scale
Posted on 05/09/2019

To Lower Student Stress, MHS Changes GPA Scale In an effort to reduce student stress, Mason High School is changing the way it calculates grade point averages (GPAs).

Beginning with the Class of 2020, Mason High School will transition from a 4.0 grading scale with “add-on” weights to a 5.0 weighted credit scale. The changes are designed to encourage students to take the classes that interest them instead of loading up on Advanced Placement and College Credit Plus courses to enhance their academic standing.

Discussions with MHS students and community members during this year’s CommUNITY Conversations and ReImagine Learning sessions included feedback about concerns for students’ social and emotional health. District and school leaders have seen more students with anxiety disorders and heard from more teens mentioning thoughts of suicide. The GPA change is part of a series of moves that the Mason City School District is making to improve students’ mental health.

“During our conversations, we gathered feedback about the current culture at MHS and the impact it is having on students’ mental well-being.  A large part of these discussions included the highly competitive culture and the impact student course loads have on stress and anxiety levels.We have researched the reasons why students take a large number of AP courses.  While there are some students who take a large number of courses because of their general interest in the subject area, there is a disturbingly large number of students who take AP courses to increase their grade point average (GPA),” said Bobby Dodd, MHS Principal. “Students have shared with us their feelings that they are most often recognized by the school and community for their scores and academic achievement.  This is something we would like to change at Mason High School. We believe a good start would be adjusting our GPA and changing how we recognize our top performing students.”

The 5.0 weighted credit proposal was researched, developed, and reviewed by a team of administrators, school counselors, and teachers beginning in August of 2018.  The proposal was further refined through focus group discussions and feedback with administrators, school counselors, teachers, and students throughout the months of January and February of 2019.  The proposal was presented to the Mason City Schools Student Achievement Committee on March 14, 2019 to allow for commentary and feedback. Community feedback and commentary was obtained during the April 2, 2019 Special Edition CommUNITY Conversation: Tackling Our Competitive Culture  when the proposal was presented by Associate Principal Shanna Bumiller and Dodd.  

Review the Interactive Artifact Exploration from the April 2, 2019 Special Edition CommUNITY Conversation: Tackling Our Competitive Culture for additional factors that influenced the decision to propose the 5.0 weighted credit scale.

Based on the feedback following the April 2 CommUNITY Conversation, the high school revised the 5.0 weighted credit proposal to better meet the needs of students. Under our current GPA system, students who earn a grade of C or higher in Advanced Placement, College Credit Plus, or honors level courses receive an additional .03 points per semester credits earned. These “add-on” weights or points are added on after the calculation of an unweighted GPA. The current weighted add-on credit grade scale results in a grade point scale that has no ceiling and has intensified the “add-on” point accumulation chase with the state mandated addition of College Credit Plus weighting beginning in 2015-16.

Transitioning to a weighted 5.0-grade point scale honors the level of engagement and thinking required at an AP and Honors course level by a student and also decreases the emphasis on “chasing” add-on points due to the GPA not being able to go above a 5.0.

Transitioning to a weighted 5.0-grade point scale also aligns with peer districts across the state of Ohio and the midwest.

The 5.0 weighted grade point scale will maintain the excellent reputation that Mason students have through the college admissions process and our students will still be competitive within their application cohorts.

“It is the hope that moving to the 5.0 weighted grade point scale will be one component that will allow our students to focus more on their own learning passions, strengths, and explore ways they can continue to contribute to their community,” said Dodd.

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