Parents will do anything for their kids — even public speaking.
In a spirited discussion with the school board on Monday, Oct. 22, several Payson parents braved talking in front of the board and audience to passionately urge the district to give their children weighted grades for taking classes through the NAVIT program.
“My daughter is in NAVIT,” said Payson Elementary School teacher Allison Randall. “They are taking college-level courses ... they are much more rigorous than high school classes.”
Her comment spoke to the heart of the issue.
The parents want the same sort of grade point boost as students in Advance Placement classes in subjects like English, math, physics and history.
Students take classes at Gila Community College to complete NAVIT programs which include nursing, forestry and Web design, but the grades don’t get the extra weight in calculating grade point averages as the Advanced Placement classes. For instance, a student who earns an “A” in an AP class gets five points instead of four averaged into the student’s grade point average.
Payson High School (PHS) Principal Anna Van Zile made an indepth presentation to the board on why students taking the Advanced Placement (AP) classes receive weighted grades, while the NAVIT students do not.
Her presentation included a comparison of seat time hours, the difficulty of the AP exam, and the lack of examples of other high schools granting weighted grades for dual enrollment classes. AP students only get college credit if they score above a certain level on a tough test of what they’ve learned.
“To give weighted credit to college kids would require that weighted grades should be given to ... dual credit courses,” she said, “Where do you draw the line?”
Dual credit courses include the construction, culinary arts and auto shop classes. Students who take these classes receive college and high school credit for one course.
School board member Matt Van Camp said the board has wrestled with this issue for four years.
“How do you decide which NAVIT courses to weight and which not?” he asked. “You can’t just take auto shop and weight it the same as an AP course. So far, there has not been a good solution.”
Currently, the high school offers AP biology, chemistry, physics and calculus. Students must have a teacher recommend them for the AP course.
Parent Mary Ann Runzo said NAVIT students must take an entrance exam to qualify, which she feels is just as much of a prerequisite as a teacher recommendation.
She said it is hard for students and parents to support the NAVIT program when they are not recognized for the increased rigor of the classes, which often result in a student receiving a lower grade than if they would have taken the course at the high school.
“We want to support NAVIT, but the high school is not giving them credit for what they do,” she said. “They are taught by college professors.”
Van Zile suggested solving the issue by only giving weighted grades to AP students who receive a three or higher on the AP exam.
She said that up until this point, so long as students showed up for the AP exam they would receive a weighted grade.
“Some students have gone in to take the test to answer the questions they thought manageable and then sat through the rest of the test,” she said.
Van Zile said AP classes could be accepted by colleges for credit. However, she said some of the tougher colleges, such as the Ivy League schools, require a score of four or more to give college credit.
The principal said she found no other high schools that linked a weighted grade to the score on the AP exam.
The school board will return to this issue at a future meeting, as this was an item for discussion only.