Honors System Makes Sense For County Students

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The Worcester County Board of Education will likely next month alter the way it distinguishes students, and the change is a good thing for local students.

Currently, each county high school recognizes a Valedictorian and a Salutatorian. These are the students with the highest cumulative grade point averages (GPA). Many other students are honored at graduations around the county, but those are for other extracurricular activities and not typically a result of classroom studies.

Under a revised program, supported by a group of educators and parents and presented at last week’s school board meeting, there will be a three-tiered program of student honors for the Class of 2011. Similar to how colleges recognize students, there will be three categories of honors – Summa Cum Laude (GPA 5.05 and up); Magna Cum Laude (GPA 4.9 to 5.04); and Cum Laude (GPA 4.9 to 4.89).

The recommendation by the Class Rank Committee comes after studying more than 30 colleges’ acceptance policies. The committee was quick to determine class rank is all but inconsequential for higher learning decision makers. More important are the overall student transcript, which details course grades through high school; the amount of college-prep classes taken; college entrance scores; and other activities beyond the classrooms, like sports, clubs and community service.

We like this new proposed system because it gives the competitive student a chance to excel. Let’s face it, there are many high-performing students in local classrooms through this county, and most of these go unrecognized because they are not in the top two in their class. The most unfortunate thing is these students are enrolling in Advanced Placement courses and doing everything universities want to see.

This new system would give these students something to boast about on their college applications that was previously unavailable to them. Being able to promote as an honors student could separate one from another.

However, that’s not the most important concept here. We already know colleges are not looking at class rank as a determining factor. While being an honors student might help distinguish them, this new system would be all about encouraging students and providing lofty goals. It’s setting benchmarks for the advanced student to seek.

The Board of Education is expected to vote on the issue soon after allowing for appropriate public comment. After conducting its due diligence, we suggest the board transition to the tiered honors program. It’s time has come.

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