by Las Vegas Review-Journal Editorial Board, July 24, 2022
The Clark County School District now plans to keep its top students from being too successful.
This month, the School Board approved changes to the district’s GPA calculations. Beginning in the 2023-24 school year, student GPAs are now capped at 4.95. Previously, there wasn’t a cap on how high GPAs could go.
Most readers are probably wondering how GPAs can go above 4.0. After all, if an A grade is worth 4 points, what could top that? A good question.
The district awards bonus points for completing honors, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual enrollment classes. Students completing an AP class, for instance, receive an extra 0.05 to their GPA. The more higher-level classes students take, the more their GPAs can grow. Grade inflation is a real problem, but state regulations require certain bonuses.
In some cases, this leads to GPAs that look like typos. Troy Harris and Edwin Ma will be seniors at Clark High School next year. They both have 6.1 GPAs. They testified against the change, which originally would have started next school year.
“By reintroducing the GPA cap so suddenly in our final year of high school, all of this hard work is being essentially invalidated,” Mr. Harris told the board.
Think about what he’s saying. He and students like him took harder classes in pursuit of higher GPAs. That is a good thing. They’re better educated because they had a goal to work toward.
By artificially capping GPAs, the district is removing an incentive that encourages students to take more difficult, challenging courses. Once there’s nothing higher to aim for, some students will coast. This will probably also lead to dozens of valedictorians and salutatorians at some schools.
“It’s affecting mental health,” Mike Barton, who ironically serves as the district’s chief student achievement officer, said when discussing the changes at a June board meeting. “It’s just not healthy for colleague interactions — student to student.”
Perhaps students wouldn’t feel so much pressure to compete with GPAs if they could compete on standardized tests. But many elite universities no longer require those scores.
This whole thing brings to mind a scene from “The Incredibles.” Dash is talking with his mom, Helen Parr, who is the superhero Elastigirl.
“But Dad always said our powers are nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special,” Dash said.
“Everyone’s special, Dash,” she tells her son.
“Which is another way of saying that no one is,” he notes.
That’s exactly what school district officials seem to want.