Some Wisconsin school districts around the area are starting to consider taking a different direction on how they recognize student achievement for graduating seniors. Most high schools are currently basing the senior’s class rank off of their overall grade point average. However, this has shown to be an issue for students who take more difficult classes and end up having a lower GPA, versus a student who takes less challenging classes and has a higher GPA.
According to the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, Inc., the primary reasons for schools moving away from the use of class rank are as follows: class rank compares students as if they were taking the same course with the same vigor, students may avoid taking challenging courses in order to avoid impacting their GPA and class rank, and a student’s class rank can affect a student’s chances for admission into certain colleges, even for students who have a high GPA.
Due to this, schools around the area have been looking in a new direction called the laude system, including Boscobel. On May 21, high school teachers Joan Anthony, Jean Salzgeber, Rhonda Scallon, and Julie Schellhorn gathered at the monthly school board meeting to present to the board their research on the laude system in hopes they could get the system started for Boscobel’s Class of 2017.
“We want to be able to reward the students for taking upper level classes,” Scallon said.
Other schools in the area that have instated the laude system include River Valley and Fennimore.
“We felt we were having students drop out of more challenging classes so they wouldn’t mess up their class rank,” said Jamie Nutter, District Administrator of Fennimore.
Nutter feels that by going with the laude system, they are now prompting students to take more advanced classes and worry less about how it will affect their class ranking.
“It is getting done what we want to have done where basing it off the class rank was making more students avoid taking challenging courses,” said Nutter.
What is the laude system?
The laude system will take not only the student’s GPA into factor, but also the student’s effort put in by choosing more challenging classes.
In order for the laude system to work, Boscobel would have to put an honors point system into effect for students putting in the effort of participating in any laude honors courses, including college prep courses, articulated, transcripted, and advanced placement courses.
For example, if a student takes pre-calculus they could earn two honor points for having the initiative of taking the course. However, if the student drops out of the course, they would not receive the points.
Honors points earned throughout the four years of high school would then be multiplied by the student’s GPA, giving the students a laude points ranking. So if a student had a GPA of 3.8 and a total of nine honor points, they would have a total of 34.2 laude points as a graduating senior.
There would be three distinct sections for students who earned laude points, including Cum Laude (honors), Magna Cum Laude (high honors), and Summa Cum Laude (highest honors). To determine what section the student would fall in would be based off the number of laude points earned. In order to qualify for one of these sections, the student must have a minimum of a 3.2 GPA and at least five honor points.
To qualify for Cum Laude students would need 17-31.99 points and would be recognized by wearing a white cord at graduation. In order to qualify for Magna Cum Laude a student would need a total of 32-44.99 points and would wear a gold cord at graduation. Finally to be considered Summa Cum Laude a student would need a total of 45 or more points and would be honored by wearing a stole.
Even with the laude system, there would still be a valedictorian and salutatorian for the graduating class. However, it would be based off who received the highest and second highest laude points. The student with the highest laude point total would be rewarded with the Academic Excellence Scholar.
When the four staff members gave their power point presentation to the Boscobel School Board, their reasoning for pursing the laude system included: encouraging challenging course work, raising test scores (WKCE/ACT/SAT), better preparation for future education, equitable comparison of students, and forcing colleges to take a closer look at the student.
When basing a student’s class ranking off their GPA, students may shy away from taking more challenging courses, as they don’t want to take a chance at having it affect their GPA negatively.
“We want to encourage our students to take the rigorous class offerings,” said Salzgeber.
With the laude system, students would no longer be awarded for not only achieving good grades but also for taking the initiative to try challenging courses.
Currently, a 4.0 GPA student who may have only taken less challenging courses surpasses a student who has a 3.9 GPA and participated in college-prep courses.
So by changing the class ranking to the laude system students who earn laude points throughout the year would be recognized for it, causing colleges to look closer at the student’s academic rigor and achievement instead of just their class ranking or GPA.
“In small school districts we need that because our kids are competing against Division One schools that have 600 students in a class,” said Anthony.
School board decision
The Boscobel School Board has not currently reached a decision on whether or not to use the laude program, but plans on looking more into it and talking to schools around the area that are using the points system.
School Board President Todd Miller plans on also asking questions to past graduating students from Boscobel on how they feel about the program as well as trying to get some opinions from community members by using Facebook.
Miller feels personally it would have a positive affect on the school by taking away the easy pass for students.
“It will challenge the top students to work harder, which then will increase the overall education of the students as well,” said Miller.
If interested in hearing more about the laude program, feel free to attend the next Boscobel School Board meeting on Tuesday, June 18.