School board discusses valedictorian criteria

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Members of the Marysville Board of Education discussed, at length, concerns voiced over the large number of valedictorians in the district.
In 2017, Marysville High School named 28 valedictorians, down from 38 the year before. The district currently names a student with a 4.15 grade point average (GPA) and six advanced placement courses as a valedictorian.
That number threatens to grow in the coming years as next year the criteria changes so that anyone with a 4.1 GPA or above will be named valedictorian. Next school year will be the first in which students from the new Early College High School will be included with Marysville’s graduates.
According to information provided by the district late last school year, there are 33 incoming seniors at the Marysville High School and 19 at Early College High School who have GPAs above 4.1. There are also 63 additional students at the two schools with GPAs between 4.0 and 4.1 who could potentially push into valedictorian range. Those GPAs do not include the final grades of the fourth semester.
With a possibility of the number of valedictorians stretching past 50 and approaching 100, some in the community have questioned the change from the system where the top student in the class was the only valedictorian. Letters to the editor in the Journal-Tribune in recent weeks have echoed this idea.
Marysville Superintendent Diane Mankins gave board members a packet of information that included a snapshot of what some area schools in the Ohio Capital Conference use as criteria for valedictorian.
Results of the poll included:
-Upper Arlington – Does not name valedictorians.
-Olentangy Orange – Highest GPA, 1-5 per year.
-Dublin Jerome – Anyone with a 4.1 GPA or higher, 100-plus per year.
-Canal Winchester – Highest GPA, 1-5 per year.
– Westerville South – No valedictorians, but top 10 GPAs are honored.
– Fraklin Heights – Highest GPA, 1-5 per year.
-Newark – Anyone with 4.0 or higher, 11-20 per year.
-Hilliard Bradley – 4.3-4.4 GPAs, 1-5 per year.
-Westerville Central – 4.5 GPA or higher, (number not listed).
-Thomas Worthington – Most A’s in graduating class, one student per year.
-Worthington Kilbourne – 4.0 GPA or higher, 50-100 per year.
-Reynoldsburg – Anyone with 4.0 GPA or higher.
Mankins said the all districts choose to handle the valedictorian situation differently. She said the decision to widen the criteria for valedictorian locally is based on student competition.
She said students in the running to be valedictorian were making course selections in an effort to take more advanced courses, which score on a five-point level and can push the student’s GPA higher than traditional courses. She noted that one student commented that he enjoyed art classes, but stopped taking them because they score on a four-point system.
“We want kids to pursue their passions,” Mankins said.
Board member Brian Luke said he has talked to parents and their reactions have been mixed. He said one parent commented that if the number grows much further the students not being named valedictorian will be in the minority.
Personally, he said he does not like students setting aside passions in pursuit of academic honors. He also feared a potential for students to enroll in classes with teachers perceived to offer “easier” A’s.
Luke said he has talked to colleges that they are looking for a variety of qualifications in students, because the criteria for valedictorian vary from school to school.
Board member Nan Savidge echoed that she does not like the idea of children not pursuing their interests. She said the world needs innovators and those types of creative minds must pursue their passions.
Member Dick Smith said the world is changing and, with that, so is the way top students are educated. He said in Marysville’s era of having one valedictorian all of the students pursuing the honor took the same set of classes.
He said Marysville’s brightest students take a broad spectrum of courses. He also noted that those students can now take classes in different high school buildings which have differing approaches to grading.
He said there is a real potential to set up an “apples-to-oranges” comparison when naming a valedictorian. He said he would hate to see students choose which high school they attend, based on which gives them the best chance to become valedictorian.
He also noted that he has talked with colleges and most seek students with broad educational experiences, rather than focusing solely on GPA and class rank. He said in talking to admissions officials, he was told Harvard looks for students best suited to become “community, country and world leaders.”
Member Amy Powers said she liked the idea that all students reaching a certain benchmark earn the honor, while board president Sue Devine felt part of the hang-up could revolve around the title itself.
She said valedictorian means the singular top student and perhaps changing of the honor might be the way to go. She encouraged board members to continue taking input from members of the public.
Mankins said if a change was ever implemented it would require several years of notice to residents. She said it would not be fair to change criteria for an honor in the middle of a student’s high school career.
In other business, the board:
-Learned from Mankins that the summer parking lot paving program is underway. The high school lot is currently being paved, with Bunsold Middle School to follow and then some smaller projects.
-Heard that preliminary results of the third grade reading test have been received but the state has said adjustments are going to be made to the scores.
-Learned that the installation of new security cameras in various buildings is underway.
-Heard that the high school stadium project is in the stage of creating the final rendering after receiving input from the technical committee. Mankins said the fundraising committee now needs to launch into its work.
-Learned from district treasurer Todd Johnson that the new state senate version of the budget is not as favorable to the district as the house version. He said a final version of the budget will give a clearer picture of what the district can expect in terms of state money in the coming years.
-Handled several staff appointments including Tom Powers as director of technology ($90,000 per year), David Hensinger as Northwood Instructional Coach ($69,625 per year) and Christopher Campbell as K-12 Instructional Innovation Director ($85,000 per year.)



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