New Standards for Dean’s List Creates Controversy

Northwood School’s returning upperclassmen have been complaining about how hard it is for them to be on the Dean’s list, the highest form of Honor Roll recognition at Northwood School. Ms. Jill Walker, the Dean of Academic Affairs, publishes the list at the end of each marking period. The requirements to be on Dean’s List were changed at the beginning of this academic year. The current Dean’s List standard for upper classmen is a GPA of 4.0 with no grade lower than a B+. For underclassmen, the current standard is a GPA of 3.70 with no grade lower than a B+. The previous standard for Dean’s List required no grade lower than a B-. Many juniors and seniors complain that the changes have unfairly excluded them from Dean’s List because grades in AP and honors classes are weighted for the GPA but not for the “no grade lower” requirement.

Take this hypothetical student for example:

AP English Language:    A-
AP Biology:                        B-
AP Psychology:                 A
AP Calculus AB                 A-
Spanish 4/5                        B+

This student would have a 4.38 GPA, which would give her one of the highest GPAs in the senior class; however, she would be excluded from Dean’s List because of the B- in AP Biology, even though that B- is weighted as an A-  when calculating the GPA.

Changing the minimum grade requirement from B- to B+ seems insignificant, but that minor change resulted in a drop in representation of upperclassmen on Dean’s List. Last year,  forty-five percent of the first semester Dean’s List was upperclassmen compared to just twenty five percent this year.

So what caused the twenty percent decrease? “It’s definitely the new [minimum grade] requirements. If I don’t take multiple AP courses or if I have all As and one B-, then I have no chance of being on Dean’s list,” said an upperclass student. It seems to the student body that the upperclassmen are the only ones penalized by this change. The representation of underclassmen last year and this year is nearly the same.

Also remarkable is the fact that none of the sophomores on last year’s Dean’s List made the list this year as upperclassmen.

Students have differing explanations for the disparity on the honor roll. One argument is that underclassmen have easier classes than juniors and seniors. Another explanation is that upperclassmen take more honors and AP classes, which are significantly more challenging. AP students are rewarded for taking challenging courses with a weighted GPA, but individual letter grades aren’t weighted when measured against the minimum grade standard, which kept many underclass students off the Dean’s List.

Veteran faculty member, Mr. Reed, supports the current honor roll standards.“Because we have both an honor roll and a high honor roll to reward strong achievement,” he said, “I believe we should reserve the Dean’s List for exceptional across-the-board performance. The more people who make the Dean’s List, the less significant making it becomes.”

English Teacher and School Counselor Mr. Don Mellor has a different opinion and shared the view of many Northwood juniors and seniors: “Although I haven’t given this subject a lot of thought, it seems to me that if one A doesn’t get a student on any lists, then one B- shouldn’t take any student off the list. The lists should only have a GPA requirement because we shouldn’t expect kids to be great in every class.”

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