Unnecessary obstacles in the brutal climb to a perfect GPA

An unhealthy culture of “maxing” at CHS


Bella Mora

At Coppell High School, maximum GPA points are given only to the A+ grade, rather than both the A+ and A grade, as it is done at most colleges and many high schools. The pressure to earn a 97 percent or higher in their classes adds unnecessary stress to students’ lives, leads to excessive cheating and causes compatibility issues for transfer students.

Pramika Kadari, Staff Writer

Despite the fact that only 6.9 percent of the United States is clinically depressed, 26 percent of high school students are depressed to the clinical level, which could be an indication that teens live in an unhealthy environment.


At Coppell High School, even after studying hard and receiving an A in their class, many students remain disappointed in themselves due to the fact that their A grade fails to earn them the highest possible Grade Point Average (GPA), which is only given for the A+ grade- a 97 percent or higher.


The variance in GPA points assigned to an A grade versus an A+ grade has a negative impact on students.


Depression rates among high schoolers are extreme; this correlates with the fact that 49 percent of students suffer immense stress daily, largely due to academic reasons, such as maintaining top grades. For many, GPA begins taking priority over knowledge.


“Students are absolutely too competitive about GPA,” Coppell High School chemistry teacher Susan Sheppard said. “They focus more on the numbers and not on the learning process… there’s a lot more memorizing facts instead of actually learning and applying content, which are the skills you need in college.”


Because high school does not focus on learning and application, 40 percent of high school graduates feel unprepared for college, which raises the question: what is the point of high schools working their students so hard, when the work they are doing produces results that fall short for nearly half the student population?


Bringing this back to CHS, there is no reason to add to students’ workload by causing them stress over not receiving a 97 or higher in their classes, when doing so provides no benefits in the end.


“I hear all the time that students are trying to pressure their teachers to give them higher grades, so they can max. They argue over one point… which I think is wrong. I think they’re losing sight,” CHS lead counselor Debra Fruithandler said. “It probably does [create unhealthy competition] to some degree.”


In recent years, cheating has skyrocketed, both at CHS and around the nation. Throughout the United States, 95 percent of high schoolers admitted to cheating of some kind. By forcing students to become even more competitive by increasing the stakes of GPA, CHS is adding fuel to the fire of academic dishonesty.

“[There’s an] issue of students who feel they have to cheat to achieve the certain GPA,” Sheppard said.


According to College Board, many high schools and the majority of colleges do not differentiate between an A and A+ grade regarding GPA. CHS’s system impacts compatibility with other schools, as well. When a student transfers in the midst of their high school career, their GPA is altered once they arrive at their new school in order to fit the given school’s regulations, which may lower it unfairly.


When I moved to Coppell from Westmont, Ill., my GPA was brought down due to my previous school’s lack of differentiation between the versions of an A grade. If I had known I would be transferring to a school that would differentiate, I would have attempted to earn the A+ at my previous school.


Supporters of the differentiated GPA between A and A+ grades may claim the difference is necessary in order to distinguish students more clearly for class rankings.


“It gives a more accurate rank. Think how many students could have the exact same GPA,” Fruithandler said.


However, damaging students’ mental health by increasing depression rates is not worth a more distinguished list of class ranks; instead, the school should eliminate the system of ranking altogether, as it is another factor for added stress, and does more harm than good.


If unable to put an end to the ranking system, the school should be accepting of tied ranks–giving multiple students the same rank.


Texas universities’ policy of automatic admission to the top 10 percent of any high school is the basis of why CHS even ranks students, and therefore is largely the basis for the distinguished GPA between A and A+ grades. This system is unfair because it favors students from less competitive schools. If the other students in a school are not high-performing, it would not be difficult to earn a rank in the top 10 percent. For this reason, the  automatic admission policy should be altered.


“I want to see what [the students] know, not put a number on [their] brain that says it’s a certain value,” Sheppard said.

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