Purdy proposes new grad ranking

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Proposal eyes 3-tiered system used by colleges


Purdy High School's principal said he is concerned that money can play a factor in whether a student can be named valedictorian or salutatorian.

Bob Vice said students from wealthy families have the ability to pay for dual credit classes, which can enhance grade point averages (GPA), prompting him to propose a new ranking system.

Vice said the district has offered dual credits for seven years, adding weighted classes into the mix. The district recognizes its top 10 graduates and the valedictorian and salutatorian. Students taking weighted classes pay extra for the college credits that come with completing classes and earn twice as much credit.

"Students could buy their way to the top," Vice said.

He says that has not happened, but something close has. He recalled that in some years, a student with a B+ grade point average qualified as the last of the top 10 students.

"This year, we had 15 or 16 students who would have ended up in the top 10 last year," Vice said. "'Top 10' is somewhat arbitrary. We want to find a more even scale."

Vice and Counselor Jamie Temple proposed forming a committee of students, parents, teachers and administrators to review the current practice and consider changing to a new, three-tiered honors system being used by most colleges and universities, as well as at many high schools, including Monett.

Instead of relying on the top 10, Vice and Temple proposed giving honor diplomas. The summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude diplomas would be determined by grade point average (GPA) and scores on the ACT college entrance exam, which will become a mandatory test under new state requirements. In addition, students will have to demonstrate proficiency on all state assessments and participate in 2-4 extracurricular activities.

"This approach develops more rounded graduates," Temple said. "We want students to do well and succeed in other areas, and to be leaders. It's what colleges look at besides academics."

Temple observed the current system discourages students from taking art and music, in favor of taking weighted classes.

"This doesn't dumb down academics," Temple said. "You still need the ACT. This would make it more fair."

"It's not going to affect credit for college, just the high school credit," Vice said.

Temple noted that colleges pay more attention to GPA than class rankings.

School Board President Randy Henderson said he anticipates complaints from the public and a desire to keep the valedictorian and salutatorian. Vice said he hopes to have discussions like that with the committee.

"We want our GPA to be meaningful," said Superintendent Steven Chancellor. "Often, the GPA does not reflect academic ability. It's not going to hurt if we experiment. Students are already choosing not to take classes to work on their GPA."

Vice received authorization to form the community committee to pursue the matter.

Under Vice's initial proposal, a committee of teachers and administrators would select two graduates to give speeches at commencement out of submissions by the top five ranked students.

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