Top Ten Alternatives in High School
Bonny Eagle High School, Buxton
Bonny Eagle High School we currently have a task force with stakeholders to work out how we will be honoring students in the class of 2020. We don't have anything to share yet, but we are in hopes to moving to a Cum Laude system.
Dirigo High Schools, Dixfield
Dirigo High School transitioned from a "top ten" format to a "high honors" format two years ago. The previous system recognized the ten highest cumulative GPAs in the graduating class. The new system recognizes all students in the graduating class who have a cumulative GPA of 93 and above. (93 is the cut off for a "high honors" designation in the regular system of academic recognition at Dirigo High School, such as the trimester honor roll.)
To make this transition, it was first discussed with the school's leadership team. It was then brought to the school's faculty. From there, the school board was notified. Then, at the start of the school year in which the first graduating class was affected, it was communicated to students and parents.
The transition to this system was somewhat organic, in that it is a natural result of a continued transition to a proficiency-based system. We were moving towards a system that recognized ALL students who achieved a predetermined benchmark: a 93 cumulative GPA. However, it also retained a connection to a past practice which was bound to a tradition.
Great Schools Partnership, Ted Hall (former principal of Yarmouth High School)
I did a session on this at the MPA Leadership Retreat and would be happy to be a resource for this principal. Here are the steps I took at Yarmouth when we made the change:
1. Checked in with my assistant principal to make sure he thought it was a good idea. He was “good to go."
2. Checked in with the guidance counselors to talk through any questions they had about college applications. From that check in, one of the guidance counselors called a few colleges to get their take on this change and found that they were fine since they accept applications from schools all over with lots of different approaches. After answering their questions and having them check directly with colleges, they were “good to go.”
3. Brought it to the faculty, explaining why we were thinking of the change (students measured against a standard instead of against other students, reduce competition and increase collaboration among students, what many colleges do, etc.) We discussed it at one faculty meeting and then had the faculty weigh in by voting at the next meeting. We had overwhelming support at this point (only one faculty member was against). With that level of support, we took to the next step.
4. Brought it to the student senate and invited any faculty member who wanted to come to help in the explanation with students. The executive committee initially was very positive about it, so they brought it to the full senate. Again, they presented one week, then came back to vote the next week. The senate voted in favor something like 25-5.
5. Brought it to the superintendent who then had me meet with the school committee’s subcommittee on policy. They were very nervous about the proposal and were not sure it would be supported by the school committee. Initially, they asked me to do a survey of parents. I told them that I knew what the results would be if we just surveyed without any background—that they would probably NOT support the change. I suggested we have a parent forum where we present the proposal, answer questions and get feedback. I asked the students to help at the forum and they made a compelling case that the change was a positive one. The policy committee then deliberated about whether to bring a proposal for a policy change to the school committee or not. They decided not to bring a policy forward since there was no previous policy outlining the existing system. They decided they would leave it up to the school administration and we moved forward. There was no pushback at all—it was widely viewed as a positive change.
Notes: We also added a recognition at graduation for community service—any student who had recorded more than double our graduation requirement of 60 hours would be recognized with “Community Service Distinction” at graduation. This meant that more students would be recognized for their achievements.
Hall-Dale Middle/High School, Farmingdale
For honor roll purposes we use the cum laude system. For "top ten": we acknowledge the valedictorian, salutatorian and any student who has earned summa cum laude standing. That could mean our top ten is 14 one year and 8 the next. The benefit is that it creates competition between self and not against others by "knocking" a peer out of the top ten.
Kennebunk High School, Kennebunk
We do the top 10%, but we do identify the valedictorian and the salutatorian. Students are identified based on their weighted GPAs.
Mount Desert Island Regional High School, Bar Harbor
Please see the website below that explains what we're instituting for a Latin Honors system this year. The principal would be happy to take a follow up phone call if there are any questions.
Mountain Valley High School, Rumford
Still has a top ten
Sacopee Valley High School, Hiram
Sacopee Valley High School has had standards-based senior honors system for at least ten years. Students with a cumulative GPA of 93 and above graduate with High Honors and wear a gold cord at graduation. Students with a cumulative GPA of 85 to 93 graduate with Honors and wear a silver cord. Valedictorian and Salutatorian have gold sashes in addition to gold cords. NHS members are designated with gold tassels on their mortar boards. These things are noted in the graduation program as well. High Honors students have an individual picture in the local weekly paper and a short bio which says who their parents are, what town they live in, and what they are doing after high school--similar to what many schools have traditionally done with Top Ten. There is a group picture of Honors students with their names, but no bios. The number of students who graduate with Honors and High Honors has varied year to year. High Honors is generally between 10 and 15 students. This might not work with a larger school, but it has worked well for us. (Our school population is 340 and when we started using this system we were probably at 45 0.)
Shead High School, Eastport
Two years ago we started the process of a transition to a cum laude system with last year’s graduates becoming the first class to earn these honors. Being that it is a politically charged topic with parents, we started with a combination system - top 6 speaking honor parts (which is the tradition) based on the 4-year cumulative average and cum laude. We sold it to the school committee as this would compare students to themselves, not just against other students. It was very well received by the committee and community. More students were recognized which came a win/win.
The criteria for cum laude recognition is as follows:
GPA of 85-92 with no grade lower than a 77 - Cum Laude
GPA of 93 or above with no grade lower than an 85 - Magna Cum Laude
GPA of 93 or above in all subjects - Summa Cum Laude
We have not set a timeline for phasing out the “Speaking Honors Parts” system because of the political side of things and we might never make that change. People seem content and that is good.