In the Fall 2021 semester, Granite Bay High School finally leveled the playing field for an advantage that they had over the other schools in the RJUHSD district; Precalculus’s “Honors” title.

Precalculus is a college level math course offered to all students who receive either an A or a B in its preliminary class, IM3. For the over 20+ years that Precalculus has been a class at GBHS, it has held an honors title, offering an extra boost to the students’ grades. Meanwhile, other schools in the district experience normal weighting despite sharing relatively the same course curriculum and length. However, the removal of this title at Granite Bay has generated mixed reactions from students and staff members over the reasoning for this decision.

“I was against changing it for this school year,” said Lisa Vaughan, the math department coordinator.  “I was open to talking about it this school year to make the change for fall 2022, and at some point in the spring (of 2021), I was told no, it will happen.”

As said by former GBHS Vice Principal Levirt Griffin, “The decision was made to have Granite Bay’s course offerings and grading standards for Pre-Calculus adjusted to be consistent with  the other sites in the district. The curriculum offered in Honors Pre-Calculus (with a grade bump) at Granite Bay was the same curriculum offered in Pre-Calculus (no grade bump) at other sites.”  

According to a district official who asked to remain anonymous, however, the decision was made by site-level administrators last year.

As described by Griffin, the decision was essentially an equity issue – Granite Bay had the same class curriculum, but an increased academic advantage. Additionally, this change comes in the wave of “Honors” removals from most classes, such as Chemistry and Spanish 4. Despite this, however, not everyone feels the change was justified.

In a poll taken by 32 of the roughly 80 current Precalculus students, 87.5% don’t agree that the district should have the ability to take away an Honors title and grade bump for this reason. When these same students were asked to consider the perspective of students and teachers at the other schools within the district, still about three quarters of the students determined that this change was “unfair”.

“If it is unfair, then all the other schools should just get an Honors Precalc class, not just remove it from only our school. (The decision makers) basically stripped us from the benefits of taking an Honors class when they should’ve given that advantage to all the schools in the district,” sophomore Nathan Lee said.

Lee is not alone with this opinion as 3 other students within the survey itself similarly claim that the situation at hand is still unfair, but all sides could be made happy if all students across the district were to receive an honors title.

Since students in past years that have taken the class have agreed that the grade bump is helpful, the district should make the other schools implement a grade bump instead of getting rid of (Granite Bay’s),” junior Ronan Dougherty said.

And yet for some students, unjustness isn’t the only issue – it’s also a matter of the teachers’ choices.

“(The teachers) are the ones who teach the lessons and see firsthand how well – or how unwell – their students do, and are the best reasoning of finding the right way of grading based on this knowledge,” sophomore Sofia Richards said. “An administration that does not participate in the class should not be able to decide the grading of the students.”      

Another impact that the change has had has been student  performance in the class, with some Precalculus students claiming that the lack of a grade bump has affected their overall execution.

“I have very little motivation to try because what’s the point of taking this hard class and there’s no benefit”, an anonymous male junior said.

He revealed that in this year’s October grading period, he ended the semester with a D- in Precalculus.  The student makes it very clear that his performance isn’t due to the teachers, the tests or even necessarily the content within the course, but rather his motivation. 

With the effects that distance learning has had on students’ performance in their classes, many math students find themselves struggling more than ever, and losing motivation because of that. And as for others in such cases as the anonymous student, no longer having a grade bump to help them out just adds another for decreased motivation.

However, it is also to be considered that, as Vaughan puts it, the main purpose of Precalculus as a class is to properly prepare students for AP Calculus AB/BC. According to that same poll taken by the over 30 Precalculus students, over 75% are taking the class with the intention of going on to AP Calculus. 

And yet, while the purpose of the Precalculus is to act as a bridge, many students instead see it as a wall they must struggle over on their journey from IM3, an “easier” class, to AP Calculus – most student’s end goals in their high school math career.

“I just feel like this class is a lot more challenging than I thought and it definitely decreased my math ego. From what I’ve seen, a lot of people are struggling, especially the ones that I never thought would have an issue,” sophomore Gemma Lum said.

Many math students in Precalculus are having their eyes opened to the true difficulty of some math courses that they may not have experienced in previous classes; it’s what allows students to get from the more novice levels of math to those of real college courses. 

As said by Vaughan, “For a student going to Calculus, you’re showing a level of commitment; … you should be wanting to take those courses whether you get a (grade) bump or not.”

Both of the current GBHS Precalculus teachers, Cary Moore and David Laughrea, declined to comment.