Starting in 2016-17, students will receive more credit for AP courses under policy designed to eliminate multiple valedictorians
Grafton High School’s graduation tradition of honoring multiple valedictorians will soon be a thing of the past.
The School Board on Monday unanimously approved a policy change establishing a weighted grading system designed to eliminate the annual practice of recognizing two or more top scholars.
Under the new policy, which will go into effect in the 2016-17 school year, students will receive additional grade credit in Advanced Placement and college-level courses. For the first year, the change will apply to freshmen through juniors.
The additional credit will be given in courses designated by the board. Students in an AP class will receive one more point per grade than they will in an unweighted course.
Because Grafton does not have a weighted grading system, the school has had multiple valedictorians each year since 2007. During that time, 32 seniors have finished with 4.0 grade-point averages, including three or more in five of the last six years.
That practice has raised concern among school officials who suggested it undermines the value of academic achievement and fails to motivate students to be more competitive as they prepare for college.
“I think it’s important to have rank, to have a system,” Supt. Mel Lightner told the board in recommending the policy change. “It’s a feedback tool for parents and students.”
The board chose to begin the new system with the Class of 2018, noting that current juniors and seniors may be at a disadvantage because they would have weighted grades for only a part of high school. Advanced Placement U.S. history will not be weighted for 2018 graduates because it is already available as an unweighted course to those students as sophomores.
Starting in 2018, the new policy states, the board will name a valedictorian and salutatorian for each graduating class based on the highest and second-highest grade-point averages. The selection will be made after the eighth semester of the graduating class. The only exception will be for students who graduate after seven semesters.
If there is a tie for valedictorian, the senior with the highest composite ACT score receives the honor.
The policy calls for the board to recognize the top 10 academic students in each graduating class, including the valedictorian and salutatorian. Students are required to attend Grafton High School for at least five semesters to qualify.
Graduates will also receive designations for academic achievement: cum laude for grade-point averages of 3.5 to 3.74, magna cum laude for averages of 3.75 to 3.99 and summa cum laude for averages of 4.0 or higher.
Lightner prepared his recommendation with Grafton High School Principal Scott Mantei, who in a recent report to the board noted that weighted grades are used by many area high schools, including Port Washington, Ozaukee, Cedarburg and Homestead.
Board members praised the policy change, with several saying it was overdue.
“It’s about time,” said member Clayton Riddle, who has been among the most vocal critics of the current grading system.
Besides ending the multiple-valedictorians tradition, Mantei said, the weighted grading system will encourage students to take more challenging courses.