For high school upperclassmen it’s that time of year: college applications. The pressure is already on with SATs and essays. But as KSTK’s Laura Helgeson reports, some students say the way Wrangell has changed how grades are weighted is causing extra stress.

Wrangell has a small senior class: 23 students. But of those, four are poised to be named valedictorians. They all have 4.0 grade point averages.

But the district approved a new grading scale that’s just a bit tougher. Students had to earn a 90%, an A-, in all their classes to get a 4.0. That mark has jumped to 98%, an A+. Similarly, a B- is weighted lower than a B and B+.

The school administrators enacted this change. 

According to High School Principal David Macri the change is about “what constitutes rigor.”

He says a student that received 90 percent on a paper or exam, shouldn’t receive the same recognition as a full 100.

“But basically it is to make our students better prepared for a global economy, a global market,” he said.

Wrangell’s school board didn’t need to approve this measure. But at meetings over the summer, members reviewed it and didn’t object.

But there are complaints coming from all levels — not just upperclassmen

“I’m the person who values her academics very much. And I prioritize them over almost everything,” said 9th grader Haven Jack. Even though she’s only in her first year, she addressed the school board at the September school board meeting.

“I always do my best. Even then I almost never meet a 100 percent,” she said.

There’s no standard for this across the region. Both of Juneau’s high schools weigh a 90 and 100 percent grade equally. Petersburg’s grade scale doesn’t differentiate between an A and A plus. But an A minus is weighted less. And in Sitka, they don’t use percentages at all; grades are weighted between 1 to 4. 

Macri says Wrangell’s high school administration is considering taking another look. 

“We believed that we did our due diligence, but clearly we didn’t because of concern that’s out there,” Macri said.

The school is looking for students, staff, and community members to form a taskforce to figure out the best system. 

“Is there going to be a change, I can’t say that,” Macri said. “But we’re open to suggestions.” 

No date has been set for the meetings.