Dual-Enrollment sparks controversy

GPA race sparks debate on how GTCC classes should be weighed


Val Orozco

Senior Riley Joncas is a dual-enrollment student at Northwest and GTCC.

Northwest Guilford has been repeatedly praised for being a school that strives for academic excellence. With challenging, high-level classes taught by highly qualified teachers, students have been able to succeed in school and continue to achieve once they move on to higher education. 

However, in recent years, many Northwest students have been splitting their time on another campus: GTCC.

“We were given the opportunity to tell our students about this wonderful program. (Students) have the opportunity to take college level courses for free and open up other opportunities for associates degrees,” guidance counselor Aaron Murphy said. 

The stellar academic level of the school has been a driving force for students to work for the grades they want. However, this motivation has taken an odd form: competition within the classes.

The race to have the highest GPA didn’t become noticeable until sophomore year when the class of 2020 was first introduced to AP classes. The wedge between the top of the class and everyone else was beginning to be drawn out. 

“(My) first year was really easy, no really hard classes. I got to branch out a lot,” senior and last year junior marshal Mary Alex Beverly said. “I took three APs my sophomore year.” 

These kids who doubled or sometimes tripled their AP classes were taking three full-time college-level courses at age 15. Although GTCC classes are a rather intellectual and cheap way to earn college credit in high school, many students are taking advantage of this opportunity to get ahead of their classmates in the GPA race.

“I had to work really hard junior and sophomore year,” Beverly said. “I had to learn how to study. I learned that if you didn’t put in the work, you would not get an A.”

Students taking these AP classes were ahead of the game–taking the harder classes, doing the work and reaping the result of possible college credit and an extra GPA point–but after sophomore year, these students were introduced to Guilford Technical Community College dual-enrollment courses. 

GTCC provides students with a career pathway that allows students to take classes both at Northwest and on a college campus. This opportunity was created by a state mandate in the last decade. 

The Career and College Promise program provides opportunities for students to pursue a Career Technical Education Pathway, leading to a certificate or diploma aligned with one or more high school Tech Prep Career Clusters, and a College Transfer Pathway, leading to a college transfer certificate requiring the successful completion of 30 semester hours of transfer courses, including English and math,” Jennifer Dounay Zinth, who works for the Education Commission, said. 

GTCC classes have their own requirements; they require students to have a good handle on their GPA and provide test scores in order to get in. You must be a junior in high school, have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and meet the prerequisites for whatever course you want to take. 

“I started to take GTCC classes my junior year because I ran out of classes to take at Northwest,” senior Teresa Pan said, who is currently ranked #1 in her class. 

GTCC classes have provided an alternative to classes that are provided at Northwest, the most popular being Pre-Calc. However, Precalc at Northwest is an honors level course that students do not get AP credit for. This class differential has sparked a debate in the senior class after Pan was announced to be the frontrunner for Northwest’s 2020 valedictorian. 

“I took 10classes my junior year; this year I’m taking nine,” Pan said. “(I know) there is a lot of criticism, but I literally take more classes than people who go to GTCC.” 

Despite the criticism, Pan has maintained a heavy work schedule full of both APs and GTCC classes to get ahead in her STEM career. 

“I just like STEM classes more; I am better at them.” Pan said. 

Pan is one of many students who has had a full schedule of more than 10 APs in her high school career. Counseling at Northwest has been asked many times about the discrepancies and controversies that have arisen because of the dual enrollment; many of these discussions are relatively new to more recent academic school years. 

“I can completely understand (the frustration),” Murphy said. 

To determine why the scales are the way they are, one must first understand the state mandate. 

“The GPA weight for GTCC classes is a state DPI policy,” counselor Northwest Amelia Gross said. “Students that go to GTCC can take more classes, but as the (total amount of classes) increases, the denominator (that divides the classes for your GPA) also increases. Your GPA might be going higher, but you’re also taking a higher number of classes.”

GTCC classes were originally provided to students as classes to continue their Career and Technical Education pathway. For some students, it’s become the perfect alternative to AP classes. 

“GTCC has allowed me to have a more flexible class schedule,” Pan said. “Last year I was taking piano lessons in the morning.” 

The side effect of this drive to take more classes has the underlying effect of being a GPA boost. The “numbers game” has become a part of academic culture at Northwest, whether it be good or not. 

“I wanted to get back to where I was (in class rank),” senior Mackenna Myers said. “So I began taking GTCC.”

This competition has carried onto the class of 2021; many of the juniors preparing the course load in favor of classes that will give them an edge over other students. 

“I started taking GTCC because I heard classes counted twice in your GPA,” a junior at Northwest, who has asked to stay anonymous, said. “I got a B last year, and I need to get back with my competition.”

Regardless of the opportunity that GTCC provides, many students have stayed at Northwest as full-time students.

“I was literally signing the papers,” Beverly said. “I backed out last minute because I wanted to be at Northwest, not isolated.”