High Stakes, Higher GPAs

High Stakes, Higher GPAs

AP classes gone crazy
Image by Feras Hares via Flickr


There’s something vaguely disturbing about the number of kids who take AP classes simply to boost their GPAs. However, these classes also come with a significant amount of coursework, so to truly reap the benefits of the higher–weighted AP classes requires students to put in the corresponding amount of effort and thought.

Stapleites who take easier courses in order to boost their GPA are a much more unsettling phenomenon. Both English teacher Christina Richardson and English 6–12 Department Coordinator Lis Comm reported instances of students who were recommended for AP English classes, but chose not to take them because they were worried about harming their GPAs.

It’s easy to sympathize with these students; no one wants to do poorly in an academic class. But with today’s emphasis on receiving higher grades, doing poorly may mean having a 4.0 factored into one’s GPA rather than a 4.33.

No doubt that getting an A+ in any class, no matter what level, requires a decent amount of effort. But there’s a difference between working hard and challenging oneself. By taking easier classes to boost their GPAs, students are opting for the former rather than a combination of the two.

This is not to say that lower level classes aren’t challenging, but that they may not be challenging for certain students who take them anyway. And ironically, these students, who are focusing only on getting a high GPA so that they can get into a top tier school, may be depriving themselves of a better education by not intellectually challenging themselves.

Ultimately, the culture of high GPAs isn’t a phenomenon specific to Staples, though the community does feel some of its effects. That said, there are some measures the Staples administration could take to mitigate the number of students who take easier classes in order to attain higher GPAs.

A department affected by this trend is English; both Richardson and Comm noted numerous instances of students who were recommended for AP English Language, but chose not to take it because it might compromise their GPAs.

The addition of a full- year Junior English honors course would greatly improve the situation. Capable students who are wary of AP English would still be able to take an academically challenging course. There still might be an unhealthy emphasis on high GPAs, but one of the worst effects of this obsession – the loss of educational enrichment- would be greatly reduced.