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Winchester High School is forming a committee to evaluate the GPA scale at the school. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/NELL ESCOBAR COAKLEY

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Winchester High School is forming a committee to evaluate the GPA scale after one parent asked school officials to consider making a change.

Parent Michelle McCarthy on May 17 met with WHS Principal Dennis Mahoney and other staff members after speaking at a recent School Committee meeting, where she asked the committee to consider changing the scale used to calculate grade point averages at the high school. 

Speaking on behalf of some Winchester High School students and parents who have started a Campaign for GPA Fairness, McCarthy pointed out that all other high schools in the Middlesex League, of which Winchester is a member, use a scale that recognizes an A grade in a college prep (or “CP”) class as a 4.0, whereas Winchester assigns a 3.7. 

Besides Winchester, the Middlesex League includes the following towns: Arlington, Belmont, Burlington, Lexington, Melrose, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield, Watertown, Wilmington and Woburn.

McCarthy also researched schools in the U.S. News & World Report list of top 20 performing high schools, a list that up until recently included Winchester High School.

“Every single high school that we’ve researched so far in the top performing high schools, have all given their students who receive an A in a CP class a 4.0 credit,” she said. 

The towns McCarthy researched include Lexington, Hopkinton, Dover-Sherborn, Acton-Boxborough, Medfield and Belmont.

McCarthy told Winchester News the Student Council at the high school has been organizing since last fall in an effort to convince the School Committee to change its policy. They have emailed administrators and committee members, and students have considered speaking up at School Committee meetings.

McCarthy said this has become a stressful issue for student athletes whose GPAs are sometimes posted on college recruiting websites, and who find it hard not to compare GPAs with friends and cousins in surrounding towns. 

According to McCarthy, one student, said, “We feel like we’re working extra hard here at the high school; it’s a more rigorous school, but yet we’re getting less credit for all the hard work that we do.”

“Their GPA does not reflect their As or their hard work,” McCarthy said. “This inequality is really upsetting for these students.”

The issue also extends to inclusion in the National Honor Society. Winchester requires students to achieve a 3.6 GPA to join the society, and given the fact that an A equates to a 3.7, a student must essentially receive all As to qualify. 

Other towns where an A equals a 4.0 have National Honor Society requirements of GPAs ranging from 3.3 to 3.5. As a result, Winchester’s National Honor Society is more difficult to get into and smaller than comparable towns.

“Anything affecting their confidence or self-esteem, I think it’s something we should look at, so we are asking for the School Committee and the principal to please meet with us,” McCarthy said, of student mental health. “The kids are really great that I’ve met with, and if you meet with them, they make a very compelling argument.”

Darren McCarthy wrapped up the public comments by pointing out that without a standard GPA scales among high schools, it could have an impact during the college application process. 

“I do a lot of hiring,” he said. “The first thing I do is look at GPAs. If I’m making decisions on what I assume is a standard process, I assume that the colleges do that as well.”

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