Imagine coming so close to your dream just to have it crushed at the last minute. Two years ago, a senior was all set to have a full-ride art scholarship to St. Michael’s College. She had the talent and the ambition, but all she needed was another “A” to boost her GPA to qualify for the scholarship. Fortunately, she had received an A in one of her art classes. Unfortunately, due to it being an art class, the “A” was insignificant, because like most art classes at AHS it did not count towards her GPA. Due to this, she failed to receive the scholarship.
Though this was two years ago, the issue remains today. Most art classes at AHS, unlike academics, do not count towards students’ GPAs. Based on these events, many students and teachers differ on whether or not art should count towards GPAs.
Mr. Parker, an art teacher, thinks that Foundation Studio should not be counted towards GPA. As a teacher of Foundation, Parker says, “I want my students to take a lot of risks, and risks involve failure.” He adds that he thinks students would be too scared to try Foundation if it hurt their grades.
Nick Vita, a freshman and a student of Foundation, says that he thinks art “should be part of the GPA because it is a real skill, and it can be translated to a real world skill such as math and science.”
Katie O’Hara, a senior, is currently taking Photography Portfolio, a class that is calculated towards her GPA. She thinks classes, such as Illustration, Photography, and Ceramics, which go more in depth into the field, should count.
In order for a class to be counted, the issue needs to be brought to the attention of the school council, who will then write a proposal, and send it to the School Committee to make the decision. Dr. Lord, principal at AHS, is the head of the school council. Everything that is written in the AHS Student Handbook, such as the detention policy, comes from the school council. The school committee is headed by Dr. McGrath, the superintendent of the Andover public school system.
Mr. Hutchins, a guidance counselor, said, “I would support a policy change…However, I feel that if such a policy was implemented, it would be unfair for the PE / Health department, the Performing Arts department, and the Applied Technology department.”
Dr. Lord says that the issue of art classes not counting has not been talked about for a long time, saying, “[School Council] started the conversation last year and then people realized, you know, if we start to mess with this, it’s going to change all the kids’ GPAs.”
According to Ms. Delforge, the new fine arts director here at AHS, other schools do include art classes in students’ GPAs.
Though Portfolio counts towards students’ GPAs, it is not considered to be an Advanced Placement course. In order for a class to be accredited as an Advanced Placement course, it must meet the certain curriculum set by the AP College Board. Portfolio classes are not considered AP by the College Board because there is no art history component to the class.
However, Mr. Parker does not think colleges care about AP classes anymore. He points out that more and more colleges are requiring students to start out with the basic class, regardless of past AP experience. Mr. Parker says he would rather help students build up their portfolios because art colleges look at those more than the number of AP classes a student has taken.
As seniors prepare for college applications, art schools are not ruled out for certain students. O’Hara is applying to both art schools and liberal art schools. Since so few art classes count, do AHS students have a lesser appeal to colleges?
O’Hara definitely thinks she will have a lesser appeal, saying, from the point of view of the college, “They’re [AHS] not a well-rounded school and they don’t value the human spirit.”
Arun Padykula, a senior and currently taking Portfolio II, disagrees with O’Hara, saying, “The grades still show up on your transcript, so there should be no problem. It might send a message that the school doesn’t take the art classes as seriously as its academics, but colleges don’t have to pay attention to that.”
Mr. Parker thinks that AHS already has a very well-respected art program. Last year, AHS students won collectively thirty-one art scholastic awards, including two national portfolio awards. The recognition art students have received at AHS demonstrates the amount of extreme talent we have here at AHS.
When asked what art means to her, O’Hara says, “It’s different for each person, but art is a means of escape for me.” She adds that her photos come from the dream worlds she creates from her mind. Her photography also provides her with a confidence booster.
Padykula says, “[Art is] the perfect career, basically. You can do whatever you want, make whatever you can, as long as you have the time and desire.”
By Tyler Gauthier, Wonhee Han, Emily Hilman, Ashley Richmond, and Lauren Wiener