Another attack on success
May 6, 2010 12:21pm CST
Boulder Valley high schools this spring will be holding their first-ever graduation ceremonies without valedictorians, as part of the district's attempt to de-emphasize "weighted" classes and reward students for having well-balanced course loads. District officials eliminated class rank, valedictorians and salutatorians in favor of collective student honors starting this year. Principals are honoring high-achieving students -- about 20 percent of a school's senior class -- by placing them in kum laude, magna kum laude and summa kum laude groups. School leaders and district officials will be looking at how the first year of the new system went and whether it achieved any change in how students chose electives and balanced their education. But without valedictorians to give their traditional speeches, schools are now auditioning student speakers to take the podium on graduation day. A handful of finalists recited their speeches Wednesday for a group of Fairview High School student leaders and staff members who will choose two or three to talk at graduation May 23. Fairview senior Nick Morell, 18, said he was nervous but honored to be among the few students who could be chosen to close out their four years in high school. "I like that they don't have a valedictorian do the speech anymore because it gives us kids without straight A's a chance to speak our minds," Morell said. "I'm definitely not an (International Baccalaureate) diploma kid, but it's nice to be able to speak about the past four years." Fairview senior Max Schein, 18, who was also trying out, said he thinks Boulder Valley shouldn't have done away with individualized top honors. "I think it's just another process to make everyone feel like winners, while in reality some people are just better than others," Schein said. "I think that if someone wants to be valedictorian and sacrifice their electives to take weighted courses, why not let them be valedictorian?" Each of the district's large high schools has developed a method of selecting students to graduate with honors, with about 3 percent ranked summa kum laude, 7 percent magna kum laude and 10 percent kum laude. For most of the schools, a committee -- including school staff members, students and parents -- considered both weighted and unweighted grade point averages. Weighted classes are IB and advanced placement courses that can push a student's grade point average above 4.0. "This way, we are able to recognize high-achieving kids while not ignoring the kids whose whole course load was not weighted classes," said Deirdre Pilch, the district's assistant superintendent of school leadership for middle and high schools. "In the old system, if you chose to take even one elective course that was not weighted, that system could have moved you down in class rank significantly." Fairview Principal Don Stensrud said he thinks the process has gone well so far, but it's too soon to tell whether it's encouraging students to balance their schedules with both academically challenging courses and electives like orchestra, choir and student council. "To some degree, some kids were able to manipulate classes to get elevated GPAs," Stensrud said. "Some kids chose to drop out of choir and orchestra because it was hurting their GPA. One young woman, who was an IB diploma student, kept falling farther behind because she was in orchestra and student council." At Fairview's graduation, students with honors will wear colored cords and be recognized in the graduation program, Stensrud said. At Nederland Senior High, about a dozen of the 52 seniors will be honored in one of the three groups. Principal Rich Salaz said he's glad to have a new process in place that is not limited to kids who took weighted courses. "We made every effort not to exclude students," he said. Read more: Boulder Valley schools prepare for first year without valedictorians - Boulder Daily Camera http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_15027673#ixzz0nAeVLpf0 hey kid, sorry you worked so hard.......