October 28, 2016

Dear PAUSD Parents, Guardians, and Community Members,

I hope that the 2016-17 school year continues to be one of great accomplishments and celebrations for you and your children. It has also been a busy one, especially for many of our seniors who are working on their college applications.  In fact, in the last couple of weeks, our Board of Education has discussed an important component of the college admission process—a student’s grade point average (GPA).

In PAUSD, our two high schools have different methods for reporting a student’s GPA.  Currently, the practice at Gunn High School is to provide a weighted grade point average (WGPA) on the counselor’s report form of the Common Application, as well as to make phone calls or produce a letter that reports WGPA on behalf of the student if necessary.  As you may know, a WGPA allows additional credit for taking courses such as honors classes or Advanced Placement (AP) courses.  At Paly, teacher advisors do not report WGPA on the counselor’s report form, but like Gunn, the college advisors make phone calls or produce a letter that reports WGPA on behalf of the student if necessary. 

PAUSD staff presented to the Board of Education on this topic during the Board meeting on October 18.  The Board directed staff to return with a short-term solution for the Class of 2017 and to research the topic further for a long-term recommendation. At the upcoming Board meeting this Tuesday, November 1, we will present to the Board the following:

For this year we are not recommending changing the current practices for grade reporting at either Gunn or Paly.  That said, we clearly want to assure that our seniors have the opportunities for scholarships this year, so we are recommending that the district issue a formal letter, as soon as possible, on behalf of each and every 2017 graduate who needs to have a weighted GPA for scholarship purposes.  As for schools that purportedly will not accept an official letter attesting to the student’s’ WGPA from the school and/or district, we will support our students whose WGPA, SAT and/or AP would make them eligible for scholarships by providing additional documentation as needed and/or aggressive advocacy on behalf of the student. 

For the longer term we are recommending the following:

  1. Appointing an Advisory Committee (either a Board Committee or a Superintendent’s Advisory Committee, as defined in (BP and AR1220)), complete with a formal charge that would require the Committee (the name of which is to be determined) to return with a long-term recommendation before the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.  The charge would include making a recommendation to the Superintendent, who in turn would make a recommendation to the Board in conformance with the language of PAUSD BP 5121:

    “The Superintendent or designee shall recommend to the Board the methodology to be used in calculating students grade point averages.

    The Superintendent or designee shall also recommend to the Board whether extra grade weighting will be assigned for honors courses that are substantially similar in breadth and rigor to an Advanced Placement course, an entry-level college course or a community college level course.”

    Our goal is to align  practices for both schools next year while keeping our students’ best interest in mind; we want them to be competitive in the college application process while keeping in mind their social-emotional well-being.
     
  2. Revising the Board approved District Focus Goals at the January Board retreat in order to replace items in the work plan with this matter, which has become an important , time-consuming topic and is clearly a priority for the community and Board. 

Because the committee will seek extensive student, parent, and teacher input later this school year, please take note that a Gunn-Paly Information Session originally scheduled at Gunn for Tuesday morning, November 1,  has been cancelled. 

We will reschedule this session and hold additional ones once the committee has been formed.  After the Board of Education approves a charge for the committee later this year, we will send information regarding how to apply to serve on the committee. 

Thank you for allowing me the time to write to you about this very important topic.  As a school district, we want the very best for our students. We want them to challenge themselves and succeed academically, and to also make sure that they become healthy and well-balanced young adults.

Glenn “Max” McGee
Superintendent