School board scraps weighted grades

LISBON — The school board is scrapping the practice of weighted grades, starting with the 2021 graduating class, which means the valedictorian or valedictorians that year cannot have a GPA greater than a perfect 4.0.

The change was included in revisions made to the junior/senior high school handbook approved by the board at this week’s meeting.

At Lisbon, high school students wanting to compete for academic honors must take eight courses considered the most academically rigorous, and they received weighted grades, or bonus points, based on how they performed. Students also received weighted grades for classes taken at Kent State University branch campuses in East Liverpool and Salem through the College Credit Plus program.

The CCP program was created by the state legislature, and the law requires students taking classes through CCP be given weighted grades for those college classes if their district gives them weighted grades for classes taken at the high school. By eliminating weighted grades at the high school, Lisbon will no longer have to give weighted grades for classes taken through CCP, which is the goal.

Superintendent Joseph Siefke said he and others believe this was unfair to the students who did not participate in the CCP program but still achieved a 4.0 GPA in every class at the high school, including the eight courses needed to compete for academic honors.

“If you take all of the most rigorous classes at Lisbon and have gotten all A’s and you have a 4.0 GPA, you should be considered at the top of your class,” he said.

Under the CCP, the students attend for free, with the school district paying the tuition and for books. But Siefke said these students still have to drive to Salem or East Liverpool, and many do not have the means, and this is one of the issues they are trying to address by eliminating weighted grades. He said students participating in the CCP also have the opportunity to take more classes that carry weighted grades, which also gave them an unfair advantage over the others when it came to achieving academic honors.

The practice of weighted grades created a situation where multiple students graduate with GPAs greater than 4.0. This past year Lisbon had eight such students, including three valedictorians who graduated with 4.15 GPAs.

“We’re not limiting the amount of valedictorians. By changing this we’re creating a level playing field … If you get straight A’s in every class you have to take you should be valedictorian and not be leap-frogged over by someone who had the financial ability to take classes up the road” at Kent State, Siefke said, adding that has never happened but it could.

“We want to take action before it became a problem,” he said.

Siefke was asked if this was punishing those students who did chose to participate in the CCP program? He said those students continue to benefit by getting any early start on college at the school district’s expense.

“The College Credit classes are on our dime. We’re not punishing them. They can still take as many College Credit classes they want at our expense,” he said.

Principal Keith Edenfield all high school students were advised the change was coming before they signed up for classes for the 2019-20 school year.

He said they began working on the plan to eliminate weight grades last September. Participants included administrators, teachers and board members TK Hiscox and Marty Grimm.