At the Monday night Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board Meeting on June 9, the school board passed Consent Item 9.4.3 – effectively deeming the high school’s Academic Decathlon class a “Limited Credit/No Credit” class.
Past student board members have expressed their concern with the class, seeing as many of them were personally affected by the shift in their GPA. Because Academic Decathlon is a class that often draws in AP students, the GPA shift often affects the Valedictorian and Salutatorian standing for graduating classes.
Currently, AP classes offer more credit, letting a student’s GPA rise above the usual 4.0. Academic Decathlon has the potential to lower excelling student’s GPAs, given that the max grade one can attain in the class is an A+, with no AP credit, leading to just a 4.0 rather than an AP 5.0.
For example, a course load for a student on track to being valedictorian or salutatorian could be four AP classes and two regular classes. Student 1, only taking these six courses and earning an A in each, would receive a 4.67 GPA for the school year. Student 2, taking the exact same classes, earning the exact same grades, but adding Academic Decathlon on top of it, would earn a 4.57 GPA for the school year. The grade drags down because the extra AcaDec class does not offer the same credit AP classes do.
This could discourage a student from taking the elective – an elective that past students have described as one of the main programs taught at Oakdale High School that prepared them for college and studying techniques.
The item confirmed this in its background: “Historically, certain students have opted not to participate in rigorous elective options such as Science Olympiad and Academic Decathlon Team in order to guard their Grade Point Average … in those instances, a 4.0 from a graded elective would bring down the GPA of such a student who had taken many Advanced Placement Classes, each AP class optimally adding a 5.0 to their GPA.”
While the item doesn’t have a fiscal impact, it has a lasting impact for students who have been affected by its exclusion in previous years, said school officials.
“It was time to do the right thing,” Superintendent Marc Malone commented, “better later than never. The key piece of that is that none of us felt comfortable penalizing a kid for taking an elective.”
Though the item passed doesn’t affect many students, Malone explained that they didn’t want to, by default, create a less rigorous environment for those students that were influenced by it.
“There was not a driving force, it was just clear that we needed to do something,” Malone continued, “but we needed to tread lightly to make sure that we vetted all scenarios.”
Dee Hawksworth, the current coach for the Academic Decathlon team, is in full support of the idea.
“I think it’s a good thing,” she expressed.
For now, there’s hope that the item does what it was meant to do, and encourages students with any GPA to take more intensive electives in hopes of bettering themselves and to carry on the legacy of OHS academic successes.