Following approval from the Board of Education during the regularly scheduled June 18 meeting, Troy Buchanan High School (TBHS) will be moving to a Latin honors system for the first time with the Class of 2020. During the 2018-19 school year a committee, comprised of TBHS faculty and administration, convened to review the current honor system for graduating seniors and explore ways to recognize more outstanding students at graduation.
Throughout their research and discussion, the committee discovered three main points that encouraged them to propose moving forward with the Latin honors system. First, many K-12 districts across the state (and country) have already moved to a Cum Laude recognition system. Thus, allowing them to be more aligned with post-secondary institutions. Second, while class rank will still be calculated and placed on student transcripts, some contend that the current valedictorian/salutatorian system causes unnecessary stress and anxiety for high performing students. It also limits their ability to take courses of high interest, as some courses may not be offered for weighted credit. Third, TBHS educators believe that the current Gold Scholar criteria no longer recognizes or aligns with the high leverage academic credentials that motivate our highest performing students.
In a study of the Class of 2019, using the proposed criteria, 70 students would have received Cum Laude honors at graduation. This type of “industry-standard” recognition can set TBHS students apart from others when they compete for college entrance, course placement and scholarships. Prior to the presentation to the Board of Education, a parent and student survey was administered. Results showed that seventy percent of respondents supported the change to the Cum Laude system as proposed, just under eleven percent were not supportive and nearly seventeen percent requested further information before deciding. An open meeting was held on the topic on May 20.
The use of the Cum Laude system will begin with the Class of 2020 graduates. However, Valedictorian/Salutatorian and Gold Scholar students will still be recognized during the 2019-20 school year. Beginning with the Class of 2021, the transition will be complete and only Latin honors will be recognized.
In combination with the above, the committee also reviewed the current grade point average (GPA) calculation. For the past twenty years, TBHS has employed a +/- grading scale. Originally, this was implemented to differentiate higher achieving students. However, within the last several years, rigorous courses like Advanced Placement, College Credit and Honors Courses have been implemented with weighted grades. Because of the increased rigor and weighted grades, the committee proposed a return to a standard grading scale allowing students to compete on a more level playing field with other high school students for college admissions and scholarships. A comparison of current TBHS student GPAs using a +/- versus a standard grading scale revealed that, overall, cumulative GPAs consistently improved. When surveyed, sixty-five percent of parent and student respondents supported the change, eighteen percent did not and eighteen percent requested further information. Open discussion for this topic was held at the May 20 meeting as well. All current students grades 6-12 will have their GPAs updated, based on the newly implemented standard scale, this summer.
The district is grateful for the committee members that dedicated their time and expertise to ensure the best systems are in place for our students. Parent and student feedback and dialogue has also been critical to this process. Faculty and administration look forward to continuing to recognizing students for their hard-earned achievements.