The issue: Lincoln County Schools needed a new way to rank students
Earlier this year Lincoln County Board of Education revisited the idea of switching to the Latin Honors System where, instead of honoring one valedictorian and one salutatorian from each high school, students are awarded with summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude distinctions for achieving certain grade-point averages.
The issue came up because Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction Rhonda Hager noticed the 10-point grading scale, which went into effect three years ago, created more ties between students because now they’re only full letter grades (A, B, etc.). Before the 10-point scale, students could earn an A-, for example, which received a slightly lower grade-point value than an A. These distinctions created some difference in grade-point averages and made identifying salutatorian and valedictorian pretty easy.
What happened: Feedback on the issue was split
The board sent out a survey for parents, teachers and others interested in weighing in on the issue – and the results were pretty split. Back in May Hager shared the results with the school board, and she said about 30 percent of survey takers weren’t on board with the change. And some school board members weren’t OK making changes with such a high number of parents feeling negatively about it. The school board also needed more clarity on what the system could really look like as well as more time to consider other options, like some sort of combination of the Latin Honors System and choosing a true “val” and “sal.”
What it means: A decision had to be reached
The topic came up again at the school board’s July 10 meeting with board member at large Heather Rhyne explaining that she previously felt misinformed about the options and felt a blended approach might work better for Lincoln County. She and others stated that many students work hard to be No. 1, and the prospect of being recognized for having the highest GPA can be very motivating for some students. Fellow board member Joan Avery suggested selecting the valedictorian and salutatorian and then using the Latin Honors System to recognize the top 10 or 20. Some members didn’t like the idea of limiting the number of students receiving summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude distinctions, so the discussion carried on until a more clear plan was laid out. The board ultimately voted on a hybrid system.
What’s next: A combination of systems will take effect 2019-20
The school board unanimously approved putting a hybrid system in place for the 2019-20 school year. They said it would be the best fit for the district, and it would solve the problem of having many students to honor while also recognizing the students with the highest GPA. One valedictorian and salutatorian will be selected from each high school, and others will be recognized with summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude distinctions – no cap on the maximum designations was put in place. This year’s rising seniors will only have a valedictorian and salutatorian in 2018-19, and those who will be juniors this year will be the first to experience the new system once they become seniors in 2019-20.