IHS students who take music classes work for hours a week, practicing and participating in extracurricular activities that directly involve musical skills. Many spend free periods in A-building playing their instrument, singing, or writing to improve their skills as musicians. Others simply enjoy participating in their daily music classes as an escape from the rest of the stressful school day. Many students assume that the time they spend in A-building counts as part of their GPA. However, grades for music classes are not factored into the grade point average.
The IHS Student Council and a team of administrators and teachers are actively working to change this policy.
Including music classes in students’ GPA is a popular initiative for many students taking these classes. Music department teachers Nicki Zawel, Kristin Zaryski, and Bill Makin—directors of the band, choir, and orchestra respectively—also believe that these classes should count towards student GPAs. The music programs offered at IHS are already well-renowned, but including music grades in GPA could clearly send the message that IHS is committed to its Music department. Music classes operate on a spiral curriculum in which students explore new pieces and musical skills each year, building off of accomplishments and artistry achieved the previous year. Musical concepts do not change, similar to grammar concepts in language classes, but musicians are constantly growing and improving their skills with daily practice and exposure to new repertoire. The new two-ensemble system for Band, Choir, and Orchestra allows even more room for growth and achievement.
Recently, IHS Band Director Nicki Zawel, ICSD Superintendent Luvelle Brown, Art Department Head Carol Spence, and IHS Principal Jason Trumble met to discuss this initiative. “We are headed in a very positive direction and we have administrative support,” Zawel said. Brown will be meeting with Chief Academic Officer Liddy Coyle to discuss whether adding music to a student’s’ GPA would have a negative impact on weighted GPA. Trumble commented on the situation, saying that the team has “looked back 20 years, and seen that IHS has never included music in GPA before, although the stars are aligning in the conversation to make it happen.” On the next steps of the initiative, Trumble said that “Ms. Spence is reaching out to other schools to identify downsides to the issue, though it seems like a win-win.”
Trumble said that the music in GPA initiative is a bigger decision than just a “yes” from the principal. He said that the issue “has been looked at historically, and now it is time to look at it moving forward.” Select students have expressed concern that including music in GPA would lower their weighted GPA. The team involved has taken this factor into account and have started doing further research on the issue. An option that was suggested was the possibility of classifying Wind Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, and Chorale, the higher-level ensembles, as Honors classes. Brown will be meeting with Coyle to further discuss the actual implications of this concern. One factor to consider is that all IHS students are required to take Health and Participation in Government, two classes not weighted as Honors classes.
The music program at IHS already has a reputation for excellence, as shown by the amount of people who attend concerts, performances, and showcases, as well as the dedication that students show by participating in music classes. However, many believe that including the grade students receive to count towards college and academic life further validates the amount of time and effort put in by students and educators towards artistic excellence, especially for those wanting to go to college to pursue a career in the arts, as well as for students who participate in multiple ensembles.
Student Council is concerned about and involved in this issue because their job is to take issues that students show interest in and make them a reality. Many students have shown enthusiastic support for including music classes in GPA, so Student Council has pursued this policy. If you want to get involved or comment on the initiative, contact Student Council officers Samson McKinley ’18, Ruth Silcoff ’17, Ania Pracel ’18, or Tilden Chao ’19.