Inside L-S: Course weighting and requirements differ drastically from other districts

At L-S, even an A- in an AP course is worth less in one's GPA than an A in an accelerated course; a B+ in an AP course is worth less than an A even in a regular course. This vexes some students, but is it the norm?

Before we dive in, have a look at this information:

Course Weighting


School
Regular
Accelerated/Honors
AP
Other
L-S
4.0
4.2
4.4
--
Penn Manor
4.0
4.5
5.0
5.5 (AP +)
Solanco
4.0
--
5.0
--
Elizabethtown
4.0
4.4
4.8
--
Warwick
4.0
4.4
4.8
4.25 (A+ in jr/sr year)

Course Requirements

  • Lampeter-Strasburg: students need four credits in all core subject areas, and three gym classes, as well as one credit in FCS/Managing your Finances and one Intro to Info Tech class.
  • Penn Manor: Career and Technology Center (CTC) students need only three credits in core subjects, and students focusing on agriculture (need eleven ag credits) need only four credits in English, three in other core subjects. All students need only two gym credits, and Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) requirements are met through general curriculum.
  • Solanco: all students need four credits in English only, three in other core subjects, with one floating credit that must be of those four. They need two credits in Arts and Humanities, and two in fitness type courses
  • Elizabethtown: students need only three credits of science, two in gym, one in health. Only three math credits are required if a student takes calculus their junior year.
  • Warwick: students need four credits in English only, three in other subjects, and two credits in humanities. Warwick requires only five elective credits (as compared to eight or nine in most other schools).

Sample Schedule by School


L-S
Penn Manor
Solanco
E-Town
Warwick
AP Biology (B+)
3.63
4.125
4.125
3.96
3.96
Acc. Shakespeare (A-)
3.885
4.1625
3.700
4.07
4.07
Intro to Law (A)
4.000
4.000
4.000
4.000
4.000
College Calculus (B)
3.300
4.125
3.750
3.600
3.600
TOTAL GPA
3.703
4.103
3.894
3.908
3.908

Surprised? Who ever thought that just taking an Advanced level course would give a weighting of 1.125, higher than our own AP courses at L-S. And other schools certainly appear more liberal in their choice of course requirements, especially to agriculture and CTC students, both of which are prevalent in L-S. So why in the world do we run on the system we do?


Dr. Scott Rimmer, assistant principal
Dr. Scott Rimmer, assistant principal at the high school, explains that our current system changed within the last five years, and that prior to that L-S had a “broader system.” The system was mainly changed because the school was “worried about numeric totals,” the fact that students could have a grade point average above five, and that this meant their GPA would essentially be watered down. In fact, AP courses used to carry a 1.3 weight, meaning a student earning an A in such a course would have a 5.2 factored into their GPA.


However, Dr. Rimmer explained that all colleges reweigh GPAs because of varying systems. With our current system, the biggest problem is that it doesn’t reward students as much for taking harder courses. “Students that take less rigorous courses can look like they have a better GPA than AP students,” he says, and that this “scares kids away from taking the challenge.”

Analysis of Three Possible Senior Year Schedules

Advanced Placement
Accelerated/College Bound
“Senioritis”/Less Rigorous
AP English (A-)
4.070
Novels & Film (A)
4.200
Mass Media (A)
4.000
AP Calculus (A)
4.400
Prob. & Stat. (A)
4.200
Pre-Calc (A) *
4.200
AP Psychology (B+)
3.630
Sociology (A-)
3.885
Intro to Law (A)
4.000
AP Chemistry (B)
3.300
Anat. & Phys. (B+)
3.465
Physics (A-)
3.700
TOTAL GPA
3.850
TOTAL GPA
3.938
TOTAL GPA
3.975
*There is no non-accelerated course option in mathematics for one's fourth credit.

As shown, a student who challenges himself or herself at the Advanced Placement level and earns one partial letter grade (e.g., A- instead of A) lower has a markedly lower GPA than a student who takes courses at the accelerated level, who has a markedly lower GPA earning one partial letter grade lower than a student who takes a common "senioritis" schedule with only one weighted course.

(article continues)

“There’s money attached to 1, 2, 10,” in a GPA system he admitted, but he still encourages all students to challenge the highest level available. And as there has been no discussion amongst school leaders about changing the system, it looks like it’s staying awhile.


Now what about those course requirements? We not only have the most, but we appear to have no exceptions. Dr. Rimmer admitted that the requirements have “sometimes caused issues, particularly for CTC students and half-day students.” But, CTC students are now considered to cover one subject area credit, and agriculture students can gain science credits from ag classes. And the school has even made it easier for ag students to take CTC classes and still remain in FFA.


For other students, the course requirements were made so that “you have a good baseline, regardless of future pursuits," Rimmer says.The goal at L-S is to produce “well-rounded citizenry, capable of pursuing any path.” And Dr. Rimmer emphasized that although students need four credits in core subject areas, those four credits aren’t all required classes, so students still have some freedom to choose.

Overall, L-S has among the most restrictive, "tough" course requirement and weighting system in the area, but administration argues that is only to produce better students.

--Justin Burkett, LSNews.org Managing Editor

Edited: BP

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