Are academic-based clubs penalizing students for being ahead?

Are academic-based clubs penalizing students for being ahead?

Hayley Parker, Editor

Orcutt Academy High School offers two academic-based clubs in which students can partake: the California Scholarship Federation (CSF) and the National Honor Society (NHS). These clubs are designed to gather top students through a GPA requirement and a point system based on the classes taken by the student. Some students have argued this criteria penalizes those who are ahead in their high school classes, whether that’s through AP classes, honors classes, or classes taken through the CollegeNow! Program. The Oracle sat down with CSF advisor Mrs. Bornhoft and NHS advisor Mrs. Cedillo and learned there is much more to the reasoning behind this criteria than we students realize.


Students earn membership in CSF by applying and obtaining 10 CSF points based on the grades they earned their previous semester. According the the CSF point scale, an A is worth three points, a B is worth one point, a C is worth no points, and anything lower than a C disqualifies one from membership. Of these ten points, four must come from CSF’s “List 1 Courses”, seven must come from List 1 and 2 courses, and the last three may come from any list.


In addition to regular CSF points, an extra point is awarded to students with an A or B in an AP or Honors course, not to exceed two such points per semester. CSF advisor Mrs. Bornhoft explains, “In a way, if you take too many [AP or Honors classes],… and you weren’t doing well in them, then you could be penalized in that way.” On the other hand, Bornhoft explains that CSF tries to give more credit to students taking more difficult classes by requiring the majority of points to come from the List 1 courses, the higher rigor core classes, along with the additional points for AP and honors classes.


It is clear CSF has a strategic point scale to award students taking more rigorous classes, so why do students feel they are being penalized for being ahead? The issue does not lie within the classes being taken on campus, but rather the ones being taken outside of Orcutt Academy through the CollegeNow! Program, more specifically, classes taken over the summer.


Up until about four years ago, summer classes counted toward CSF points. Due to the organization’s recent decisions, however, this is no longer the case. Students have expressed frustration towards this rule;  they have taken the classes they need to take in hopes of being ahead by obtaining units in high school, but aren’t receiving points for them through the club. This makes it much more difficult for many students, especially seniors, to meet CSF’s point requirement.


Bornhoft explains that CSF wants students to maintain their involvement with their school and high academic standards for themselves even through your senior year, and that includes on the campus. Seniors can still have free periods and take CollegeNow! Classes during the school year, but they still need to be taking enough academic classes to be challenging themselves and meeting the point requirement. Let’s face it, a student taking all electives their senior year doesn’t show many characteristics of scholarship, and that’s not the idea when it comes to an academic-based club.


NHS is a whole different ball game with a whole different academic requirement. Like CSF, our local chapter of NHS is part of a larger organization. What makes one eligible to apply to NHS is their overall unweighted GPA. The overall unweighted GPA requirement for NHS at Orcutt Academy is a 3.6.


Orcutt Academy students taking advanced and honors classes have expressed complaints toward NHS’s GPA requirement being unweighted. The purpose of a weighted GPA is to compensate for students taking more difficult classes, classes in which it is more difficult to earn an A. NHS strips this away and puts all students on the same playing field of an unweighted GPA, regardless of the difficulty of their classes.


Some have expressed it is unfair for students putting in more work for an advanced class, however, an unweighted GPA requirement actually makes the most sense as it sets the bar the most equal for the most amount of people. NHS advisor Mrs. Cedillo explains some students’ GPAs “can get fluffed” because their schools offer an abundance of AP, honors, and college courses. Cedillo shares, “The reality for some students is that they don’t have access to all of those things, maybe due to lack of knowledge, maybe due to the school not having the resources, maybe their campus is an hour away from the local community college… If you keep it unweighted, then it doesn’t matter if you took a ton of AP [and] honors classes because we’re looking at the straight. I understand both sides of it, but if we’re saying what makes it equal to all, then i can see why as an organization NHS wanted to keep it as an unweighted GPA.”


Cedillo goes on to remind potential applicants that GPA is only part of NHS; it’s simply what qualifies you to be invited. After that point, it’s about everything else you’ve done. How are you showing commitment to high moral characteristics? How are you serving your community? What other ideas do you have for that? So many students only take certain classes to boost their GPA’s, but they have no idea what they’re learning, they’re just able to pull off an A. Once again, this isn’t a true exhibition of scholarship.


Students doing fine in advanced classes shouldn’t worry because, regardless of the GPA requirement being weighted or unweighted, they’re still getting invited. The unweighted GPA requirement isn’t to penalize students who are ahead; it’s to make the situation fair for those who aren’t taking advanced classes, whatever reason that may be. Cedillo states, “Bottom line, the NHS application is a full application, GPA is just what qualifies you to get invited. After that, you still have to go through the application process and get actually inducted in.”


CSF and NHS are just two clubs. They won’t make or break you. If you are truly driven towards making a difference in your school and community, focus on that rather than feeling penalized by point systems and GPA requirements.