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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pasco County School Board debates meaning of high school class rank

A staff proposal to alter the way Pasco County schools calculate class rank grade-point averages gave way Tuesday to a larger question over the true meaning of high school graduation honors.

Superintendent Kurt Browning and his staff recommended counting more classes in the formula to determine who becomes a class valedictorian. After a detailed back and forth over the specifics, board vice chairwoman Alison Crumbley honed in on the implications.

As in past conversations on the topic, Crumbley argued that the inclusion of high school courses taken outside the normal school day — whether in middle school or online — would devalue the valedictorian recognition. She recalled a situation four years ago where the valedictory speech at one school was made by a student who had "never set foot on the campus. It was demoralizing to the students that were there watching this. ... It certainly wasn't about leadership, because no one knew this person."

She challenged the reliability of online courses, suggesting they are ripe for cheating. And she posited that the net effect of these concerns could be students less motivated to graduate.

Browning said Crumbley raised some valid points, and advised that the board might want to look into policy changes beyond the class rank GPA to get at the crux of the matter.

"I think we need to give some thought to looking at the val-sal issue," Browning said.

If the goal is to encourage top academic performance, he said, maybe the board might consider expanding honors as universities do them. He stressed that he was making no recommendation, noting that "the district to the north did that and there was a price to pay." But he attributed Hernando's problems to poor communications internally and with the public, and said Pasco could avoid that if it wants to ponder the possibilities.

"Do we want to recognize two students? Or do we want to recognize more than that during graduation ceremonies?" he said.

Chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong put forth that class rank has nothing to do with student leadership. She offered another path to investigate, that of having schools designate a "senior of the year" — someone that "people are proud to have on stage" — to represent the senior class at graduation alongside the valedictorian.

The board didn't take any action, and its class rank GPA proposed rule is slated to come back for a final vote on July 23.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 6:41am]


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