White Robes Create Unnecessary Emphasis On GPA

Grace Aitken, Co Editor-In-Chief

A high school graduation is supposed to be a day where students celebrate their hard work and achievements.Yet, SJHHS’ policy of separating its student body into different colored gowns based on GPA alone makes many students dread their graduation day.

Forcing kids to wear their GPA on their graduation day is humiliating and degrading, and it’s absurd that SJHHS has a policy that makes graduates feel embarrassed on a day that is supposed to be celebratory. Students shouldn’t be regretting not getting an “A” or “B” in their junior year math class, or agonizing over the “C” they got in AP European history sophomore year while they’re supposed to be stepping into the next phase of their life with their family and friends.

A GPA is often a misrepresentation of the hard work students put into their high school years. A student’s achievements in high school cannot be summed up by the number of honors/AP classes students take, or the grades they get in those classes. Many students are hard working and dedicated aside from school, in the extracurricular activities they are involved in, their part time jobs, and how they help take care of siblings or other family members.

By making the policy based off of GPA, the school is disregarding student’s achievements and commitments outside of school, grossly misrepresenting their time during high school.

A student’s achievements in high school cannot be summed up by the number of honors/AP classes students take, or the grades they get in those classes.

What makes the work of a student who cheated in many of their classes and got a 4.1 more deserving of a white robe than the work of a student who graduated with a 3.9 with academic integrity? What makes the talents of a star athlete or artist with a lower GPA less deserving of a white robe than someone who is better at school than sports? The extenuating circumstances that affect GPA cannot be summed up by a robe color, and by no means reflect the character or dedication of its wearer.

GPA is also greatly influenced by the resources a student has access to. For instance, students from wealthier families are able to have paid tutors, and students from lower income families may have to pick up part time jobs to help their parents. Many students have parents that work long hours, and have to help take care of their house and siblings after school. This can cut into the amount of time students have to study and do their homework, directly affecting their GPA.

A study at the University of California, Santa Barbara conducted by Rebecca Zwick and Jennifer Greif Green found that “high school grades and class rank have a larger correlation with family income and education” than standardized testing. This shows that a person’s GPA is largely shifted by how they grew up, making it less a measure of intelligence and hard work, and more a combination of multiple external factors.

While the original intent of white robes was to celebrate the students who received a 4.0 or above, in reality the policy only creates a culture where high scholers are defined by their GPA.

One main complaint that students have throughout high school is that they feel they are defined by their GPA and test scores. The fact that colleges accept students largely based on numbers is anxiety inducing, demeaning, and frustrating for most high school students.

The white robe policy only exacerbates this effect by choosing what a student wears at graduation solely based on one number.
The robe policy gives many teachers unnecessary stress. Students whose grades are on the edge of a 4.0 will approach them during their second semester, asking for a grade change to allow them to get a white robe.

This puts teachers in an uncomfortable situation, as they want everyone to enjoy their graduation, but they also can’t give out free letter grades. Undoing this policy will save teachers the unnecessary hassle that comes every March, as well as take away the stress many students who are on the edge of a 4.0 feel in their second semester senior year.

Although the original intent of the robes were to celebrate students, the white robes are differentiating the “high achieving” kids from the “not high achieving” kids, creating a negative culture. The policy makes many students feel dumb, which often overrides the pride they should feel on their graduation day. It gives the impression to many that the students in blue robes’ achievements are not as great as the students in white robes’, creating a less inclusive school culture.

In reality, the achievement being celebrated is graduation itself, not the GPA one earned throughout high school.

Different color robes aren’t the only way students can be recognized for their academic achievements. A cord, tassel or pin for everyone who achieved a 4.0 or above would have the same effect, while being more modest.

White robes don’t support the culture of inclusivity and unity SJHHS is trying to achieve. We can’t change that society, employers, and colleges use our GPA to judge us. What we can change is the fact that our school feels the need to separate us into different colors at our own graduation.