The Elizabethtown Area School District will consider whether to replace its valedictorian/salutatorian rankings for graduating seniors with a system that recognizes more of its top students and also change the weighted grade system for some classes, including honors and Advanced Placement.
At its workshop meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 10, the school board heard a presentation on the matter by high school Principal Maura Hobson and Amanda Hann, assistant to the superintendent for learning. The potential changes would address the overriding question: What is best for each learner?
The problem with the current system, Hobson and Hann said, is that students don’t take the courses that they really need for future careers in favor of weighted classes that will boost their grade point average.
Students are “playing the game” to increase their GPAs, Hobson said.
For instance, one student nearly gave up a valuable internship experience because it wouldn’t add as much to his GPA.
Hobson and Hann pointed out that college admission decisions and scholarship awards are made before the selection of the valedictorian and salutatorian. Also, colleges look at unweighted GPAs and course rigor along with other factors. For instance, three area institutions – Elizabethtown College, Franklin & Marshall, and Millersville University – have moved away from using class rank and GPA, according to the presentation.
Also the difference among the top students is “mathematically insignificant,” Hobson said. Superintendent Michele Balliet agreed that the ranking becomes “about the competition of val/sal. It wasn’t about the learner, or the learning.”
One option would be to use a collegiate system based on a 4.0 scale to celebrate more students: summa cum laude (37 students), magna cum laude (68) and cum laude (57).
For courses, all weighting could be removed or there could be a limited number of weighted classes.
The changes could come about for the 2018-19 school year. Or the district could opt to keep the current ranking and weighting systems. The proposal will be presented in November and December to staff and parents to seek feedback, with a recommendation coming in January.
School board candidate Kelly Shaffer Fuddy commended the board for bringing about the conversation.
In other business, Elizabethtown Borough Manager Roni Ryan presented a proposal to extend a borough walking path behind the middle school, on district property. The district would not incur construction costs, but would be responsible for maintenance.
Board member Robert Cronin said he likes the idea but wants to learn more about the long-term costs to the district. The board will vote on the proposal at its action meeting next week, before the borough undertakes the costs of environmental studies.
The board also heard a detailed financial update from business manager George Longridge, including the 2016-17 budget and an update on the current year. Also, human resources director Richard Toth reported that the district has realized $488,000 in administrative savings for the current year.