Scott County Schools staff presented a proposal to the Board of Education on implementing new graduates of distinction honors while eliminating naming valedictorians and salutatorians, but some board members were hesitant to endorse the change.
Assistant Superintendent of Student Learning Maurice Chappell introduced the proposal for a first reading. Instead of valedictorians and salutatorians, students could earn the following distinctions, similar to college honors:
— Suma Cum Laude: Earn a minimum 4.0 GPA, take at least six (6) AP and/or Dual Credit classes, and meet state transition ready criteria.
— Magna Cum Laude: Earn a minimum 3.75 GPA and meet state transition ready criteria.
— Cum Laude: Earn a minimum 3.5 GPA and meet state transition ready criteria.
“Our high school administrators and counselors would like to move away from a system naming valedictorian and salutatorians and move more to this Latin honor system,” Chappell told the board. “Class rank would not be reported publicly, but it would still be computed and reported to colleges and scholarship applications.”
Board member Stephanie Powers asked what was the rationale for doing away with the valedictorian and salutatorian.
“One, it gets really complicated to name one valedictorian and salutatorian because do you count things this way or that way. And, in more recent history, having 40-ish valedictorians does not seem to bestow any kind of honor,” she said. “The other part, it doesn’t seem to be a benefit. There are some scholarships that are for valedictorians that still could be applied with a No. 1 ranking. So the proposal was to use these levels of distinction.”
Board chair Kevin Kidwell wanted clarification for scholarship offerings using the Latin system and if that is where the ranking system would still work. Chappell said if a student wanted to apply for a special scholarship for valedictorian, the student would have to be ranked first. He also said the counselors thought UK has a $500 scholarship for valedictorian.
Another change the proposal makes is doing away with weighted grade point averages because colleges want unweighted GPAs and weighting GPAs gets into what counts as extra weight, Chappell said.
“Is it AP, is it dual credit? So to avoid counting this or counting that, just go to unweighted GPAs,” he said. “And all students’ courses would work into the GPAs. And going back to valedictorian and salutatorian, if AP does or does not count more, then some kids could game the system and take easier courses to be named valedictorian. So the proposal was to go to unweighted and do away with those honors and it is a fairer comparison.”
To recognize students who do take AP or dual credit, the proposal includes students would have to take at least six AP and/or dual credit courses to earn the Suma Cum Laude distinction, Chappell said.
Board member Jo Anna Fryman would like to see the district keep naming a valedictorian and salutatorian, she said.
“$500 is a lot of money for someone who may get a scholarship for being a valedictorian who may come from backgrounds where that would make a difference,” she said. Board member Susan Duncan said she wasn’t sure UK doesn’t give money for being valedictorian as her son didn’t receive a valedictorian scholarship.
Superintendent Dr. Kevin Hub asked the board if they wanted Chappell’s group to consider criteria for a single valedictorian. Fryman said that would be her preference, but Chappell said that is where it gets complicated.
“Having been there and teaching the kids that are trying to get it and they are scratching and clawing and you have 40 students walking out thinking they are valedictorian and it means nothing,” Duncan said.
Hub pointed out the policy said you would have 40 number ones with the Latin distinction, and Duncan said it would not be watering down the recognition. But she did say colleges use the Latin system and still can have a valedictorian and salutatorian, but have to come up with a different criteria to determine that.
“We honored a student last year that was outstanding and the work she did separately. It’s a matter of coming up with the criteria everyone can agree on,” said board member Diana Brooker.
It could also get tricky with having two high schools, Chappell said.
“Even with establishing criteria and making sure it is applied across the board. It will be applied differently. It will happen,” he said.
Fryman asked how many schools in Kentucky have valedictorian and salutatorian, and Chappell said he had received policies across the board.
“This has been a big subject for me. I don’t want to just say we don’t have criteria. These are things that are unanswered,” Brooker said, as she and Fryman said they would like more information.
Duncan asked if the board had jurisdiction over it, but Hub and Chappell said now with two high schools the board can set the criteria for such distinctions.
Policy is also being updated to match state course requirement and also continue to reflect additional requirements, such as a civics exam and technology proficiency and financial literacy that will start affecting the 2020-21 freshmen class, Chappell said.
He also introduced a first reading of changing the grading policy.
“This was to set up a uniform grading scale for both high schools, and instead of 92-100 being an A, it would be 90-100 an A (and so forth) to make it more in line with colleges,” he said.
Powers asked Fryman if this was Georgetown College’s grading scale, and Fryman said there is not a college-wide grading scale and it is done by faculty.
The board also ratified/certfied the following positions at Great Crossing High School: two English/language arts teachers, one social studies teacher, biology teacher, physics teacher; a teacher position at Phoenix Horizon Community; one ESL teacher; one occupational therapist and a school psychologist position.
Steve McClain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.