The AJC has a story today on a trend that I wrote about here a few months ago: Schools moving away from class rankings and from naming valedictorians and salutatorians to avoid what has become an arms race for the titles.
Eliminating public rankings, something many private schools already do, lessens the competition in top high schools where kids are vying for the most competitive colleges. High schools that have made that choice contend that college admissions officers have to look more closely at applicants’ test scores, the rigor of their classes and their essays when there are no class ranking on high school transcripts.
The story revisits the controversy at Etowah High School where the top slot was going to a student who had never attended the high school. A private school student enrolled at Etowah to access an early college option offered to public school students. Because college grades earn higher points on the GPA, the private school student edged out an Etowah student who has been tops in her class since the ninth grade.
The prospect of Etowah’s valedictorian being a student who never stepped foot in the building or attended classes there led to protests, a Facebook campaign and petitions. But Cherokee board policy called for the young woman in college to be recognized as valedictorian. However, the board realized that this was a tough situation and created a waiver so there can be more than one top student.
The news story references a larger issued raised by this mess: Should high school students in college classes deserve more points for their grades. (A former Cherokee valedictorian says “no” in this piece.)
Take a look at the article, which has several good comments. Among them:
Nancy McDuff, associate vice president of admissions and enrollment at UGA, said there is no norm for calculating the honor.
“I think there are almost as many ways to calculate a valedictorian and salutatorian as there are high schools in the state,” she said. “Some only consider courses taken at the high school. Some give higher weight to Advanced Placement or honors courses. There are lots of different ways to do it.”
Danny Cook, a computer science student at Georgia Tech and 2009 valedictorian at Gwinnett County’s Collins Hill High School, said he’s definitely seen students “gaming the system” in their quest to be school valedictorian.
“Back when I was in high school, students would take AP level classes to try to gain an edge because of additional grade weighting, some to the point that students would switch to schools that offered more AP classes, just so they would be able to transfer the credits back to gain an edge in the running for valedictorian,” he said. “Just this past year, I had a close friend who had to fight very hard for his spot, because the student in second place took an additional AP class online in order to try to gain the edge.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog