High school courses taken in middle school may no longer be counted in a Charlottesville High School student’s grade-point average, starting next school year.
“Everyone is not starting from the same starting point when they get to high school,” said Eric Irizarry, principal of CHS, at Thursday’s School Board meeting.
The proposed change aims to level the playing field for students who have previously entered high school with different GPAs depending on which classes they took in middle school or if they attended private schools in the area. Students will still receive credit for the classes.
Irizarry said students are entering Charlottesville High School with a GPA of anywhere from 2.5 to 4.5. That lower GPA can be an “impossible deficit for students to make up.”
High school courses taken in middle school are counted as honors classes in the GPA calculation. That means, for example, a student receiving an A would receive a 4.5 for a course, instead of a 4.0.
A student’s GPA measures the rigor of a high school schedule for college admissions, Irizarry said, a metric not designed for middle school performance.
At CHS, the measure is utilized for college admissions, scholarships and Governor’s School applications, according to the school’s counseling department.
Irizarry said he wants a student’s high school GPA to reflect their academic performance from ninth to 12th grade.
The School Board discussed the calculation change during a presentation on classes for next school year.
Jennifer McKeever, chairwoman of the School Board, wondered why CHS wouldn’t only use classes in which middle school students did well as to not penalize those who push themselves.
“I think that the problem I have is it assumes that children will do poorly when they could excel,” she said.
She added that such a major change should be discussed as a community.
Irizarry said the current way GPA is calculated creates a large gap between students with more resources who take classes early or attend private school compared with students who might have recently arrived in the country and are challenging themselves by taking a high school class early.
“It’s a barrier that we’ve created,” he said. “I think that private school factor does factor in. We have so many private schools here, so that does play a big piece, as well.”
Additionally, private schools don’t have to follow the Virginia Standards of Learning, he said.
Taking high school courses early is important for students who want flexibility in their schedule to take more electives and/or dual-enrollment courses.
“A student who takes four high school credits — that is going to pay dividends for them their senior year,” Irizarry said.
Schools Superintendent Rosa Atkins said the change is a reflection of the division examining practices and policies with equity in mind.
“Is it creating an environment in which we diminish those opportunities for students to be seen as not as good as another student or comparison of students, where their performance is concerned, because the reality is all of our students didn’t start at the same place,” she said.
The School Board will decide on the proposal at a future meeting.