The Piedmont Highlander

The Student News Site of Piedmont High School

The Piedmont Highlander

The Piedmont Highlander

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Giles Corey from the play The Crucible said “more weight” TPH says no.

TPH sits down and looks at every class at the high school. When we create the Course Selection Guide, we use terms like workload, difficulty, and weight. It feels like we pick classes with the mindset of “how much am I willing to endure?” or “how much do I need to look good for college?” instead of “What sounds fun, challenging, enjoyable to learn?” or “what am I passionate about?”

Too many students choose classes based on a GPA boost rather than course content, ignoring what they want to pursue.

We allow the lure of the weighted classes to sink us rather than lift us to our highest potential.

We believe that PUSD can take a step toward better student health by removing the GPA boost that accompanies AP and honors classes.

Think about it. What if we picked classes based on what we wanted to learn? What we are good at? What we want to challenge ourselves with? The course selection process might look different.

Students experience an enormous amount of stress from grades and assessments. According to the 2019 Board of Education presentation on student stress, 79 percent of students reported that their main sources of stress were grades, tests, quizzes, finals or other assessments. These figures have sparked a discussion among the Board of Education members about the state of mental health and stress within the district.

We do not want to decrease the rigor of our classes or eliminate AP and honors classes. We simply want to eliminate the feeling that we need to add more and more. In our current perfectionistic school climate, students feel immense pressure to take a set of courses that will push their GPA to the maximum, no matter the cost. We take on an unmanageable workload, striving for an A+ in every class, falling ill, tired, and uninspired in the process. A constant source of competition, weighted grades perpetuate this pressure and numbness that we already feel. Electives are supposed to personally fulfilling.

PHS currently offers 22 weighted courses, and as students push for more weight, non-weighted electives are falling behind. However, this is not occurring because of a lack of student interest, but because students crave points more than passion.

By eliminating the weight from our classes, we will encourage students to embrace challenge for the sake of challenge, rather than the grade bump that comes with it. We believe that it will also promote a cultural shift at PHS, with a greater focus on love of learning. This shift would allow students to spend time pursuing a class that they love.

Weighted classes also do not mean much beyond the confines of our high school.

According to U.S. News and World report, colleges already re-weight our GPA to their own scales, rendering our weighted GPA useless in the admission process.

We do acknowledge that weighted GPAs might affect students’ ability to get scholarships, and this is one area where the district and the high school counseling department will have to find a way to assist students, and since PHS no longer ranks students, we know that there are already systems in place for this.

So why eliminate all weight? Because otherwise, it is too tempting.

At their meeting on Jan. 22, Board of Education members discussed possible solutions to help reduce student stress on campus. Limiting the number of weighted classes that students can take, one of the proposed changes, would actually have a detrimental effect on the student body. Instead of encouraging students to take the classes that they are most excited about, they will end up selecting the “easiest” weighted classes, which would only perpetuate the toxic culture that exists at PHS.

We acknowledge that our solution may appear idealistic, but we are believers. ROP Journalism, the class that produces The Piedmont Highlander, is a non-weighted elective, and that’s a good thing. It means that we take the class because we are curious and because we are passionate about journalism. It is a challenging, rigorous class, and it is worth it.

In a society where college stress is ingrained in the culture of each of us and our school as a whole, PHS students are not going to stop wanting to work hard and learn. This change might open new and different electives that appeal to student interest. We will still be competitive and taking “the most rigorous course”, but they could be the ones we want to take for the sake of learning, instead of weighing us down.

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