DEBATE OVER VALEDICTORIANS; GRADE-POINT CHANGES LEAD TO OPTIONS IN SELECTION.
With changes in calculating grade-point averages making it possible to score higher than the traditionally perfect 4.0, Antelope Valley Union High School District officials are considering changing how valedictorians are selected.
Should everyone who scores 4.0 or higher be named co-valedictorian, or everyone with all A's in college prep classes? Should any senior whose GPA falls within a certain percentage of the top GPA be valedictorian? Or should the title be changed to summa cum laude, like colleges use, or dropped entirely for fear of hurt feelings?
``It's something we need to define because we changed our grading, and we now honor weighted grades. It changes how you calculate valedictorians,'' Superintendent Robert Girolamo said.
The weighted GPA system started in 1996, with that year's freshman class. The system assigns a higher score in calculating grade-point average to honors and advanced classes - 5 points for an A, instead of 4 like in other courses.
But a wrinkle in the system is that a top student who takes additional - but nonhonors - classes would be penalized: If two top students each score A's in six honors or advanced classes, but one of them takes an extra nonhonors class and scores a 4.0 in it, the student who didn't take the extra class comes away with a higher GPA.
If the district keeps the current practice of giving valedictorian to the top GPA, which now could be decided by a hundredth of a point, a district staff report said, ``The pressure and uncertainty of this system may result in student and parent decisions that promote short-term attainment of valedictorian status with less regard to long-term educational needs.''
The board will discuss the matter at its meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the district's board meeting room, 44811 Sierra Highway.
Under current district policy, the student or students who achieve a 4.0 GPA, the highest possible, is designated the valedictorian at their school. Last year, the schools averaged five valedictorians each.
With the first ninth-grade group of students under the weighted system graduating in June 2000, it will likely result in a single valedictorian being selected if the present system is kept, a district staff report said.
Administrative staffers have come up with six options for the board to consider governing the selection of valedictorians.
The first is to not designate any valedictorians or salutatorians. ``Some districts have done this to eliminate the pressure and possible disappointment that is associated with this designation. College entrance decisions are made before this designation is conferred. Therefore, it is a high school award that has no effect on future plans,'' the report said.
Girolamo said designation of valedictorians has become a tradition that some people hold dear and consider important.
``It doesn't have a great deal of weight in college admissions. It's more of a social thing than anything else. People still like to declare, I'm a valedictorian,'' Girolamo said.
The second is to use the same selection procedure now in use, based on who has the highest GPA. The report noted that this system provides a disincentive for students to take extra nonhonors classes.
The third option is to designate all students with a 4.0 or greater GPA as co-valedictorians, which district staff is recommending the board approve.
The fourth option is to designate all students who have all A grades in required college preparatory courses as co-valedictorians, and the fifth is to designate every student with a certain percentage of the top GPA as valedictorian, the report said.
The sixth calls for using options three or four as a basis for selecting valedictorians, but bestow on them a title such as summa cum laude.
The district had used a weighted GPA system until the mid-1980s but changed to an unweighted system based on a 4.0 scale.
The board returned to the weighted GPA system in response to requests made by students at Quartz Hill High School.
School officials believe the original change was made more than a decade ago to give students - not just those in college-prep classes - an equal chance to become valedictorian or salutatorian.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Apr 12, 1999|
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