Many Students Unaware of the Impact GPA Differential has at Biddeford High School

The GPA conversion currently in place at BHS may cause unknown drawbacks.


Grace Laverriere, Staff Writer

One test: know all dates, events, and people from 1491 to the present, analyze texts, identify primary and secondary sources, classify changes and continuities throughout time, connect events to outside regions. All of these skills are needed for an AP United States History exam in a three hour time block.

Since 2015, Biddeford High School has had the same table for converting grades for the four different class levels to the 4.0 scale. The major issue is the conversion between CP and AP/Honors. Students may be unaware of how their class level choices can increase their GPA.

BHS offers four levels of study: CS, (Core Standards) CP, (College Prep) Honors, and AP (Advanced Placement). There is an algorithm currently in place that offers a GPA differential for taking these honors and AP levels. The GPA conversion offers a higher GPA for getting an A in a CP class than getting a B in an AP class, even though the two levels are drastically different.

CP classes have more flexibility within the curriculum, as they’re created by the school system to fit with high school level learning. This is different in AP.

“We have no control over the curriculum for an AP course,” said assistant principal Elias Fletcher. “We pass them [the College Board] a syllabus that goes along with their guidelines and they have to approve it.”

Along with the restrictions on curriculum, there is also potential for college credit for taking an AP course if the student elects to take the AP exam and scores a “3” or higher. Being able to experience college-level content and even acquire some credits in the process, including saving thousands of dollars from not needing the college courses, is one of the many benefits of AP level classes. This extreme preparation for AP exams can have a big impact on the students.

“I feel that the most difficult part of an AP class is the workload. You can expect to have close to an hour of homework per night,” said junior Ethan Paquet. “My main stressors [in AP classes] are the fast approaching test date and timed essay questions.”

While CP and AP courses are drastically different, it is also hard to compare AP to honors, specifically in Biddeford High School.

“We don’t offer an AP and honors course at the same time, there isn’t that option,” said Fletcher. “The classes that we have honors levels in are the classes where there isn’t an AP option.”

The major differences between the CP and honors/AP levels are drastic. Taking an AP course is challenging, it requires a higher level of thinking and ability.

“One of the greatest differences I have noticed between AP and CP classes is the willingness of the students to learn,” Paquet said.

In addition to the difference of pace and content, there is an underlying issue of the preconceived notions of “easy-A” AP courses. While this depends on many factors, some students enroll in these courses simply for the boost in their GPA.

“If we can make sure every AP course is following the same guidelines such as requiring the higher level thinking, and following the syllabus that was approved by the College Board, then it would be easier to determine that these levels [AP and honors] should weigh the same,” AP coordinator Jessica Larson said.

The real problem is the GPA conversion between AP and CP classes. The matrix shows the difference. An A in a CP level class is worth .5 more in the GPA conversion than a B in AP level. Some students opt to take CP simply because they are easier to earn an A in.

“An A in CP is just way easier than getting an A in AP,” said senior Adric Garnett. “If the AP class weighed more and the B [in AP] would be higher than the A [in CP] obviously I would choose AP since it would up my GPA.”

Along with the rigor of a college-level class, there is more accountability with an AP class. Deadlines are set in stone since these classes are on a classic grading scale. There is no room for negotiation on due dates. In a CP class with standards-based, deadlines are more relaxed.

“The main difference between CP and AP classes is that there is a lot more work and teachers are more like mentors,” said senior Ailaina Keely. “They [AP teachers] won’t get on you to do your work. It’s more personalized and it’s up to you [the student] to succeed.”

Going beyond just the high-level content of AP, these classes are the source of a lot of stress for students.

“In AP classes, the balance [of respect] is thrown off,” said sophomore Mikayla Titus. “Teachers in AP classes expect very high things from you and also expect you to go above and teach yourself extra information [for the test]. AP classes, in my experience, are less understanding of mental health situations. It [the class] is all very stressful.”  

All of the content students study in a class from September to May is tested on one day in a 3-hour period. The stakes of this test are off the charts since it offers the ability to save money and impress colleges in general.

“Studying for an AP test is definitely stressful, there’s a lot of content to remember,” said Keely. “You [the student] don’t want to fail on something you’ve been preparing and working for the entire year.”

AP classes are difficult, they require a level of dedication that CP does not need.

“The students in an AP class are genuinely interested in what they’re learning, classes are positively influenced by this,” Paquet said.