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Hampton School District changing formula for class rankings

| Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, 5:09 p.m.

Beginning with the Class of 2017, high-achieving graduates from Hampton High School no longer will be valedictorians.

Instead, graduates will be ranked using an additive-value quality-point-average formula and a three-tiered system based on the Latin honors summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude.

“There's an idea that this label is going to have a huge impact,” Assistant Superintendent Jeff Finch said. “It is a value. We want kids to see it as a motivator, but we want them to keep it in perspective, or what it is and what it is not.”

A committee was formed last year to take a look at the way Hampton High School calculates class rank, Finch said.

The class-rank policy was revised in 2009 to allow for more than one valedictorian. In order to reach valedictorian status, a student had to have a quality-point average, or QPA, of 4.35 or above.

Finch said this led to some large groups of valedictorians, with the biggest group having 19 graduates two years ago.

Some people thought this was too many and concerns were raised that the honor of valedictorian had lost its meaning, he said.

While that played a part in the committee forming, Finch said, the bigger issue was that some high-achieving students were avoiding nonweighted courses because of how they thought it would negatively impact their QPA.

Students would avoid an elective course or music course because they thought it would lower their QPA and put them out of range to be valedictorian, he said.

“We heard too often that kids for various reasons didn't take courses that interested them or matched their goals beyond high school because of how they interpreted it might affect their ranking in school,” Finch said.

The committee worked to find a solution that would calculate a student's QPA more evenly and give due credit to weighted courses — Advanced Placement and honors courses — and nonweighted courses.

They settled on a system that awarded added value to a limited number of weighted courses on top of the nonweighted QPA.

By using this formula, the nonweighted 4.0 QPA base carries the most power, Finch said, but students still are recognized for stretching their abilities and doing well in weighted courses.

The formula to calculate the added value QPA was drawn in part from Peters Township High School's system, which has been using the additive formula for three years.

Lori Pavlik, the principal of Peters Township High School, said the new system encourages students to take a wider variety of electives and recognize mores students for their accomplishments.

“The students can focus on learning,” Pavlik said. “This is about their individual achievement and not a competition…. Feedback has been very positive.”

At Hampton only eight AP courses and 13 honors courses will count for the added-value formula, although that doesn't mean students can't take more AP and honors courses than that, Finch said.

Any weighted courses over the cap still will be counted toward the QPA, but they will not be counted as added value, Finch said.

The student's best AP and honors courses will be counted toward the cap.

The Hampton Township School Board approved the revised policy Aug. 10.

It now is up to the committee to establish procedure for how the policy will be applied, including the QPA threshold cut-off that marks each honor level.

Finch said the committee will get together after the school year begins to talk about the standards it wants to set for each honor level and look at past valedictorian QPAs to see how they would fit into the new system to give them real-world perspective.

“We want to push kids for a high mark but make them free to do what they're interested in,” Finch said. “But we don't want to make everything honors or over-inflate everything. You have to maintain integrity to what you call rigor.”

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364.

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