To encourage high school students to tackle tougher academic classes, many schools assign bonus points to grades in Advanced Placement or honors courses. But schools’ policies on whether students should receive a grade-point boost and by how much are all over the map.
My local public school district, for instance, used to add an extra third of a grade-point to students’ AP course grades while the private high school on the other side of town would bump up students’ grades by a full letter grade.
Since students from both schools would be applying to many of the same colleges, and essentially competing with one another, it didn’t seem fair to me that the private school kids should get such a generous grade boost.
That’s why I was heartened to come across a new study by a Harvard University researcher that takes a more systematic look at the practice of high school grade-weighting.
He found that for every increasing level of rigor in high school science, students’ college course grades rose by an average of 2.4 points on a 100- point scale, where an A is 95 points and a B is worth 85 points and so on. In other words, the college grade for the former AP chemistry student would be expected to be 2.4 points higher than that of the typical student who took honors chemistry in high school. And the honors students’ college grade, in turn, would be 2.4 points higher than that of the student who took regular chemistry.
Translating those numbers, and some other calculations, to a typical high school 1-to-4-point grade scale, Sadler estimates that students taking an honors science class in high school ought to get an extra half a point for their trouble, and that a B in an AP science course ought to be counted as an A for the purpose of high school grade-point averages.