School board to eye class ranking change

A proposed policy revision would change the way grade-point averages and class rankings are calculated for Ector County Independent School District high school students, staring with new ninth-graders in August.

Trustees discussed the recommended change during the Tuesday work session. A vote is expected during the April 18 board meeting, Public Information Officer Mike Adkins said in a text message.

It will not apply to students already in high school, Adkins said during the work study recap.

Director of Guidance and Counseling Nancy Vanley said Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Roy Garcia asked district officials to look into changing the policy. A committee was formed involving just about every department.

Policies from other districts were researched and Vanley said she talked to people in other districts, as well.

“What drove it is that we were having students that were leaving fine arts areas, such as orchestra,” Vanley said. “These were top-notch, very talented young people that were leaving some of those programs in lieu of courses that had a higher GPA rating. Your electives and many CTE (career and technical education) courses have a 5.0.”

Colleges use a 4.0 GPA scale. ECISD transcripts show the college GPA and the local GPA, Vanley said.

ECISD’s GPA goes up to 6.5, so students were leaving fine arts and other electives to concentrate on their increasing their grade point average, Vanley said. The policy change would compress GPAs to 5.0, which is more comparable to other districts.

The only electives that would count would be International Baccalaureate courses at Odessa High School. Vanley said Advanced Placement and IB courses would be in the top tier to promote more of a college-going culture.

“We know that’s not the only critical piece in someone’s life and we do want them to be well- rounded,” Vanley said. “We want students to be able to stay in those programs and increase their talents, so that’s what the driving force of it was … to kind of allow students to work on their GPA through core classes which are … math, science, English, history and languages other than English. But … the remainder of the courses would be something they could go in and enjoy and flourish in and not have it ruin their GPA.”

It is hoped that promoting the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses will increase the district’s PSAT and SAT scores.

“There are just a lot of positives to it and it is, of course, for our current eighth-graders only,” Vanley said. Other students would stay on the program they are already on and will remain on the 6.5 GPA scale, she added.

In their research, Vanley said other district officials told ECISD that the change would eliminate “a lot of the GPA game.”

Top students would be determined by the end of the fall semester, she said. Most districts do this by the end of December. Currently, the top students were determined by the end of the fifth six weeks, which just ended.

This would allow students to focus on college applications, financial aid and college scholarships, Vanley said. Students will still have a final report at the end of the year that colleges are going to see, so college-bound students will not be able to skip spring.

“As far as your colleges, we still do the GPA at the end of the year so that seniors and juniors and everybody can have their final thing. But for our local honors, we’ll do the end of the fall semester in December,” Vanley said.

If students GPAs are really close, there will be tiebreakers. These were recommended by other school districts and found in other board policies, Vanley said.

Vanley said the first one would be to compute the weighted numerical GPA to as many decimal points as needed to break the tie. These

The second would be to compare the total number of AP and IB courses that each student took and the person with the most would get the highest honor.

The third would be to use the AP and IB courses only to calculate GPA.

Vanley said it’s taken two and a half years to get to this point.

“I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate our administration because any conversation we have is always what’s best for the student. I really appreciate that their focus is on students,” Vanley said.