GILFORD — The School Board has voted to re-institute grade weighting for Honors and Advanced Placement classes at the High School.
The 5-to-2 vote at Monday's nights board meeting, also made grade-weighting retroactive, meaning that the students who are in ninth grade this year, which doesn't have grade weighting, will have their grade point averages adjusted accordingly.
"I was on the fence," said Chair Karen Thurston, according to draft minutes of the meeting made available yesterday. "I think eventually, whether we like it or not, we are going to have to change this."
Last year, the board eliminated grade-weighting after a presentation by Principal Peter Sawyer in which he said that weighted grades are not factors when it comes to college acceptance because most colleges strip out the weights and apply their own standards.
Sawyer's research showed that the students who were in the top 10 and in the top 10-percent of their class were almost always the same students and not weighting grades would not significantly affect class rankings.
However, some of the parents pushed back and said that without weighted grades for more rigorous classes, many students would be inclined to take the easier class if they are going to earn the same grade-point value.
Parents also said that it takes away some of the leverage they have over their children to get them to take the more difficult class and challenge themselves.
About 35 of them came to a School Board meeting in early April and then attended a specially held Policy Committee meeting where they overwhelmingly supported re-instituting the weighted grade system.
According to the minutes, the vote was taken after considerable discussion.
Member Jack Landow, who is on the Policy Committee, said he felt the decision should be made based on facts and not emotion. He noted that while the letters and comments he received were "courteous, logical, coherent and persuasive," he felt those qualities didn't necessarily made the arguments for grade-weighting valid.
He noted the only facts he had heard were from Sawyer and from Gilmanton member Frank Weeks, whose brother is on an admission team at the University of Pennsylvania, both of whom did not support grade-weighting.
Weeks echoed Landow and said he never thought he should give a bonus to his children when they were doing well.
The other members felt that grade weighting, while not the end-all-and-be-all of college acceptance, still motivates students to try to push themselves a little harder than they otherwise would.
Thurston, Vice-Chair Rae Mello-Andrews, Chris McDonough and Sue Allen all said it seemed to be the will of the parents who made their voices heard. They said they felt that adding a carrot would encourage students to be more aggressive in their studies.
"The way I'm going to vote is for the people who voted for me to represent them on the School Board," McDonough said. He is the other member of the Policy Committee.
Gilmanton member Adam Mini said he saw and understood both sides of the issue — both as a parent and a former student. He noted that when he was in high school, he could have used some incentive to take harder classes.
Mini also noted that conversely, while competition is healthy and an important motivator, he didn't want to see competition over class rankings become destructive.
The new policy also mandates that school guidance counselors from the eighth grade forward work with students and parents to see that students are taking the most appropriate classes for their skill levels.