RHS proposes getting rid of weighted classes
School board asks for more information
By Eileen Persike
The School District of Rhinelander Instruction and Accountability Committee Monday heard from a team of educators regarding a proposal to remove the weight, or extra points for each letter grade, from all classes, beginning with the class of 2023.
The proposal is the next step, according to a memo to committee members, in a plan to achieve educational equity at RHS.
“We are truly looking at what is equitable for all kids and if we are going to stay true to that equity piece and looking through that equity lens this is something that is absolutely a critical step to that whole process,” said RHS Associate Principal Kari Strebig.
District math specialist Rachel Hoffman presented the research compiled by the Rhinelander High School Building Leadership Team (BLT). Hoffman said several findings support the proposal.
• There are no protocols or guidelines used to determine whether a course is weighted, in a system that started in the late 90s to early 2000s.
• Four schools in the Great Northern Conference have no weighted courses (Northland Pines, Lakeland Union, Tomahawk and Mosinee).
• GPA and class rank are no longer heavily weighted factors for admission to Wisconsin colleges and universities.
The leadership team determined areas of concern that may exist with removing the weights include the effect it would have on scholarships, will it result in fewer students taking AP courses and the idea that courses are weighted because of rigor. In response Hoffman stated that the district would have a couple of years to construct a plan for awarding scholarships, there is no data showing that fewer students would take college and career ready classes and that all RHS courses should be academically rigorous.
All three committee members, Mary Petersen, Judy Conlin and Ann Munninghoff Eshelman, voiced concerns about doing away with class rank, valedictorians and GPAs that are higher than a perfect 4.0. Conlin said a Wausau school saw students taking less challenging classes to maintain their GPA, adding, “Part of our concern is if you really want to encourage all kids to be challenged then do we want to encourage them to take more challenging classes rather than safer classes.”
Teri Maney, the district director of instruction, said the weighted class system created a negative unintentional result.
“What the former system did is actually cause a separation – an unintentional result because the kids who have the parent support and know where they want to go, they’re going to do well anyway, but there are other kids who maybe didn’t have that same counseling or advice…Just realize we’re trying to live that vision [of equity].”
Committee member Ann Munninghoff said she didn’t think that calculus had the same level of rigor as a composition course and shouldn’t be treated the same. Plus she said, “I can’t believe that kids are not going to lose interest in their class rank.”
How would the top student in the class be recognized if a multitude of students had perfect grade point averages? One answer is, they wouldn’t.
The BLT used “apples-to-apples comparisons” to comparable schools in the state, said RHS Associate Principal Kari Strebig. “More and more schools are moving to a ‘laude system’ because the concern is about being equitable, and if equity is a focus for our district, by taking away the game and the barriers for students, that becomes more equitable.”
Hoffman said that the laude system, which is used in colleges and universities, levels the playing field. “If you achieve a certain grade point average, you’re automatically in that ‘summa cum laude’ or ‘magna cum laude’ which are pre-set levels. They all have the opportunity to graduate laude, not just the top one or two.”
Conlin asked the team to bring more data back to the committee next month.