Possible changes for GPA rules

HOUSTON Commissioner Raymund Paredes says the proposal is intended to bring more fairness to college admissions decisions. Grade-point averages determine where seniors rank in their high school classes and whether they are in the top 10 percent of the class and thus guaranteed admission into a Texas public college or university.

"It affects students' lives and parents' pocketbooks," Jackie Lain of the Texas Association of School Boards said in Tuesday's Houston Chronicle.

Last month, Attorney General Greg Abbott affirmed a law passed by the Legislature in 2007 and decided that all high school graduates in Texas will have their grade point averages calculated the same way beginning with the Class of 2009. Abbott said the standard method for computing a GPA will be determined by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The current debate centers on which courses merit extra points and which courses should even count in the grade-point average.

For the most part, grades in nonacademic courses such as band, orchestra and physical education would not count at all, said Lizette Montiel, assistant director of state relations for the coordinating board. Only advanced fine arts classes such as Theater IV or Advanced Placement art would count, she said.

The proposed rules also would give more weight to college-level Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual-credit courses. But students would not get extra points for pre-AP, pre-IB or honors courses, which are taken by advanced freshmen and sophomores in preparation for the upper-level courses.

School district officials expressed strong concern that, without extra points, students would choose easier courses rather than risk a lower grade in more challenging ones.

"This is terrible," said Sarah Winkler, president of the Alief school board. "Pre-AP is designed to get kids interested in AP and to let them understand what the demands are. If you tell them it's the same weight as a regular class, kids are not going to risk their GPA."

Paredes contends that extra points should not be awarded for pre-AP, pre-IB and honors courses in part because they are not bound by a specific, standardized curriculum, and the rigor could vary from one school to another.

Paredes is open to feedback from school officials and parents, Montiel said, and will bring his recommendation to a coordinating board committee Sept. 17. It would go before the full board for a vote Oct. 23.

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