Editorial: Current GPA distribution table is superior to previous year’s decile system

The Oracle

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In place of a decile ranking, a system which was formally abolished in the past school year, the Gunn administration has incorporated a grade point average (GPA) distribution table on the school profile it compiles and sends to colleges. The district superintendent, Gunn Principal and Gunn Assistant Principals initiated that removal of the decile system, which sorted students into groups of ten based on their three-year cumulative GPAs, in response to concerns that college admissions officers place too much emphasis on how a student compares to his or her peers, rather than on his or her status as an individual.

By instituting GPA distribution table in the decile system’s place, the administration renders students far less vulnerable to rejection by officers who evaluate the individual most on how he or she compares to his or her classmates. GPA distributions prove less restrictive on college aspirations than the decile system.

The placement of GPA distribution tables on the school profile renders it nearly impossible for colleges to determine a student’s exact decile rank position. For example, the GPA distribution table that represents the class of 2013 indicates that a total of 42 students earned a weighted GPA between 4.26 and 4.41. Because there are 450 seniors this year and the GPA distribution table lists 81 of them as having a weighted GPA between 4.01 and 4.25, colleges cannot determine the point at which  the cutoff for a placement within the top ten percent of the class lies. This allows students who, during the time in which the decile system was implemented, would not have been considered members of the top ten percent of the class the opportunity to be considered as if they occupied that position.

Using GPA distribution tables results in an even greater advantage for students who would occupy a position within the third and fourth deciles.  Employing the GPA distribution table system in lieu of the decile system grants students a far greater safety cushion and allows them to be evaluated in a fairer manner as individuals. On this year’s school profile, the GPA distribution table indicates 161 students earned an unweighted GPA between 3.75 and 4.00. During the time in which the decile system was set in place, students could earn no more than one “B” to earn a ranking within the top decile, unweighted. By extending the range of GPAs indicated by the top rung of its grade distribution system, the Gunn administration has ensured that students who earned more than one “B” within their first three semesters at Gunn can be more heavily evaluated by admissions officers on the basis of their impressive individual academic achievements rather than how they specifically relate to their peers.

While some might find a grade distribution system of any kind an unnecessary addition to Gunn’s school profile, continuing the practice of displaying distribution tables for both weighted and unweighted GPAs serves as an essential tool toward maintaining the school’s respectable academic standing. Without having access to a GPA distribution table, an admissions officer may not prove able to differentiate a 4.41 weighted GPA earned at Gunn from a 4.41 weighted GPA earned at a high school that offers more or fewer academic and GPA-boosting opportunities. Including a GPA distribution table on the school profile allows Gunn students to be more effectively and precisely evaluated within the context of their unique environment.


—Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the staff (assenting: 44; dissenting: 1; abstaining: 4)