Almost a third of Douglas High School’s class of 2020 graduated with a grade point average of 3.9 or higher, but only four were recognized as valedictorian and salutatorian.
Superintendent Keith Lewis pointed out on Tuesday that his recent graduate wasn’t asked if she made val or sal.
“But they all asked her what her class rank was,” he said.
But because of the proliferation of Advanced Placement classes, opportunity to take college courses, and a variety of other pathways to graduation, there are a lot of ways students can exceed a 4.0 grade point average.
Education Services Executive Director Rommy Cronin-Mack told school board trustees that typically there are a handful of students competing for the val and sal slots.
“Instead of making decision about what’s best for their future, they’re looking at taking the easiest AP class,” she said.
She said the students who take college classes under the Jump Start program will always beat out students who don’t.
“It will be statistically impossible to achieve val and sal if they’re not in Jump Start,” she said. “They will always beat out those students who take the more traditional pathway.”
Cronin-Mack said that last year’s large number of high achieving students might be an anomaly.
School Board trustees Robbe Lehmann and Thom Moore said they didn’t want to dilute the academic honors students received.
“Having 109 students qualified could speak to how great that class was,” Lehmann said. “But there’s a national grade inflation thing going on that could speak to that.”
Lehmann said he wanted to see the honors reserved for the top 15 percent of the class, with the top 5 percent receiving summa cum laude honors.
“I think there’s a way to do this without recognizing a third of the class,” he said.
Moore said he felt it was important to recognize the highest achieving students in the district.
“I agree with Robbe that we should look at those splits of grade points and tighten them up to be more realistic,” he said. “I’d hate for this to turn into an everyone gets an achievement badge.”
Human Resources Director Joe Girdner pointed out that similar proposals have been somewhat controversial across the country.
“If you look at the competition for these two spots, it’s down to five kids by the end of junior year and three by the end of the first semester,” the former Douglas High School principal said. “The kids are looking for the best way to game the system and end up with val and sal.”
Cronin-Mack pointed out that there aren’t a lot of charter schools seeking to come to Douglas because of the variety of different pathways available for students.
The proposal is scheduled to be implemented in 2022.
Unlike last year, there won’t be separate valedictorians and salutatorians for the regular class and the Jump Start classes for graduation 2021.