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Since the 1980s, Guilford High School (GHS) has been using the cumulative-point average (CPA) matrix of an 18-point scale versus the well-known grade-point average (GPA). After stating that this scale causes much confusion, especially with college applications, the Board of Education (BOE) unanimously approved changing the scale to the popular GPA, effective in the fall of 2013.
"An 18-point scale is difficult to interpret, particularly for colleges on the transcripts. The 4.0 scale, most people understand and the colleges themselves have more familiarly with it," said GHS Principal Rick Misenti. "We have to actually send a cheat sheet to the colleges so they can understand what an 18-point scale really means. We want to put our kids on a level playing field with the kids in the state and the country. I think it's critical to get going with the junior class. It's a long time overdue."
Misenti said the CPA scale was approved in the mid 1980s, starting off with a 12-point system, then making its way up to the 18-point system when teachers began using pluses and minuses in their grading. The principal said he has not been able to find any staff members who could explain why school administrators began using the CPA versus the GPA.
Misenti worked closely with Assistant Principal Marc Guarino and Director of Guidance Tammy Lizotti to research what type of scale other districts use for their grading system. Though they didn't find a universal grading system, they did notice that the GPA point system is the most common.
The school counseling department often has to deal with this system, and Lizotti, who has wanted to switch the scale for several years, said that she has had personal experiences at conferences during which universities have told her that they don't even consider GHS students because of the confusion on the scale matrix. She even stated that Yale University recently referred to it as "wacky."
"We've been talking about changing the scale for a long time," Lizotti said. "Our 18-point scale is very difficult to translate to give our students an equal opportunity to be viewed against their competitors...We fought all the time with parents, students, teachers, and members of the colleges and scholarship programs about what they think the scale actually means.
"Even filling out a simple application, 18.0 doesn't appear as an option anywhere, so very often they have to leave their GPA out and then we have to follow up with some kind of written statement," Lizotti continued. "It's very difficult, from a grand scale, to be able to share that information and have people understand it and let our kids really shine and be viewed as equals."
Guarino also said that this change would make a huge difference for children in helping them to be on the same level playing field as others, bringing the students and their "competition" in line when applying to higher-education institutions.
The three BOE student representatives, Michael Albergo, Elya Bottiger, and Andrew Harnedy, noted that they wished this could have been approved for their graduating class because the current scale is confusing.
The new scale will become effective for the current junior class beginning in fall 2013.