Metro Nashville Public Schools, eager to dispel the perception it doesn’t prioritize academic rigor, announced Monday the district has adopted a weighted grade-point-average that will reward students enrolled in demanding courses.
The new grading scale — identical to models of school systems in Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties — allows students to earn up to a 5.0 GPA in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses, and a 4.5 GPA in honors and dual-enrollment classes.
Metro school officials will implement the weighted grading scale this school year, which begins Aug. 1. The new scale doesn’t apply to high school seniors — officials did not want to “change the rules” during their final year.
In the past, every Metro class regardless of its academic demand was subject to the same 4.0 grading scale, leaving students in challenging AP courses frequently posting lower GPAs than their counterparts in regular courses.
“With this change, students who challenge themselves academically will not only be better prepared for the ACT or SAT and college, but they will also be rewarded for their willingness to take on an academic challenge,” Director of Schools Jesse Register said.
The change, he said, came after consulting college admissions representatives at the University of Tennessee and several private colleges including Princeton University. College admissions offices tend to review students’ weighted and un-weighted GPAs.
“They told us they look for academic rigor on students’ high school transcripts,” Register said. “One admissions representative even said, ‘I would rather see a student with a 3.0 and honors courses than a students with a 3.5 and regular courses.’ ”
Jay Steele, the district’s associate superintendent of high schools, said he sees the 5.0 GPA as an “incentive” for students to “take that risk” and enroll in upper-level courses. Every Metro high school offers AP course, he said, while Hillsboro and Hillwood offer IB. He said district is ramping up its dual-enrollment options via partnerships with area community colleges.
“When we expect more from our students, we get more from our students,” Steele added. “Our expectations are rising, and this is another step in creating a college-going culture throughout Metro schools.”
But in recent years, some have questioned Metro’s commitment to intellectual rigor, particularly in criticizing The Academies of Nashville — the chamber of commerce-supported high-school model that bridges coursework with career-oriented themes through private business partnerships. Skeptics have labeled the program “vocational education.”
Meanwhile, though the district offers AP courses at every high school, the opportunity gap is vast. Martin Luther King and Hume-Fogg academic magnet high schools boast 25 AP courses, while Pearl-Cohn and Stratford high schools have only five and seven, respectively.
“We’ve had questions, and we’ve heard those questions,” Register acknowledged Monday, adding that the district’s high school programs “are very much in a stage of development now that we’re very proud of.
“The Academies are absolutely college prep or job prep, depending on what students want to do,” he said. “We feel that [the new grading scale] is a natural progression and response to parents who say, ‘We want academic rigor for our kids.’ ”