Monday, January 22, 2018
Education

Pasco schools may change class rank formula

LAND O'LAKES — Who's No. 1?

The way Pasco County high schools determine that might soon change.

A proposal that goes to the School Board on Tuesday would count more courses in the district's class-rank calculation than were included in the formula for the most recent graduates. It would add to the mix high school-level courses taken at middle school and online.

If approved, the change would take effect for freshmen entering high school in 2014-15.

"We want to make sure this is communicated to parents and students far enough in advance," said Darrell Huling, district supervisor of secondary curriculum. "It's very important to many students who strive for that top ranking."

Huling said the state's recently adopted rules promoting academic acceleration for qualified students prompted the district to act. The 2012 measures include provisions for early graduation and requires school districts to include "accelerated educational options" in their student progression plans.

The School Board will consider adding this change to the district's progression plan.

Some of this year's valedictorians took a dim view of the district's recommendation, which would bring Pasco's practices more in line with those of neighboring Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Ashelynne Hanold, Sunlake High School's 2013 valedictorian, called the idea stupid.

While working her way to No. 1, Hanold said, she didn't feel pressured to stack her classes to boost her GPA. She took the toughest courses she could handle while in school and spent time outside class hours cheerleading, working and taking advantage of extracurricular activities.

The only courses that counted toward class rank were those taken as part of the six-period day.

"I got three B's and I was still valedictorian," said Hanold, 18, who heads to the University of Florida in the fall.

The proposed rules could shift the balance to teens who don't have to work, or don't want to participate in outside activities, she suggested. "It's going to hurt the people who are just average kids."

Pasco High School valedictorian T.J. Pyche said the proposal seemed pointless.

"There doesn't seem to be any point other than to let some kid who wants to take 10 courses online become the valedictorian," said Pyche, 18, who also will enroll at the University of Florida in the fall.

He noted that extra courses already count toward a student's graduation GPA, which differs from the class rank version. In addition, he said, colleges and universities don't know students' final class ranks when they make admission decisions.

Such details put the change of class rank GPA calculation in the "vanity" category for Pyche.

"The people who work the hardest and take the right courses and do the best, they're going to be No. 1 regardless," he said, suggesting that perhaps the valedictorian ranking isn't so important in the end.

School Board member Steve Luikart, a former high school assistant principal, said he supported the idea of counting the courses that students take toward graduation in their ranking GPA.

"If they're going to take Algebra II or physics (outside of the school day) … and everything is the way it is supposed to be, they why shouldn't it be counted?" Luikart said.

At the same time, he continued, the district might be wise to consider a different way of recognizing high school students' academic performance than class rank. So many problems arise under the existing system, he said.

"I have actually seen students transfer from one school to another because one student was beating them out in GPA and they didn't want to be salutatorian," Luikart said. "Some students put way too much emphasis on the position rather than on what they're getting."

He preferred the college method of having students graduate with different levels of honors, although he quickly acknowledged that such a shift was unlikely. Hernando County School Board members recently backed away from their move to eliminate valedictorians, and Luikart didn't think the idea would go over well in Pasco, either.

The entire issue of class ranking "is something that the superintendent and staff need to look at closely," he said. "It has merit and needs to be discussed."

Huling said a committee explored the pros and cons of both the grade-point and class-rank concepts before making any recommendations. Some committee members raised concerns, for instance, that in adding new courses to the GPA calculation, students would no longer be "protected" from low grades in courses that they took outside the regular high school day.

Changes to district policy would put the onus on the students, which could change the way they make academic decisions. Huling said he was hopeful that students ultimately would not let GPA get in the way of opportunity.

"Bottom line, students should take the courses they are ready to take," he said, "regardless of how they fall in class rank."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Comments
USF leaders move to calm fears over consolidation plan

USF leaders move to calm fears over consolidation plan

ST. PETERSBURG — Holding a piece of computer paper and a microphone, the leader of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg began a Friday afternoon forum by repeating the USF administration’s new mantra.He reassured the crowd before him that t...
Published: 01/19/18

Crews Lake thespians overcome the odds

SPRING HILL — It’s 8:30 a.m. — "homeroom" period in school speak — when kids in the Crews Lake Middle School drama club file into an empty chorus room to begin rehearsing under the direction of language arts teacher Kristen Sykora. There’s only 25 m...
Published: 01/19/18
Cuts hit top school leaders as Hillsborough sheds three six-figure salaries

Cuts hit top school leaders as Hillsborough sheds three six-figure salaries

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins on Friday announced the first in a series of belt-tightening moves that include the elimination of three six-figure positions.Jobs now held by Wynne Tye and Larry Sykes will no longer exis...
Published: 01/19/18
Tampa Bay schools warn parents about flu activity, dangers

Tampa Bay schools warn parents about flu activity, dangers

The Florida Department of Health has reported a sharp increase in flu activity in the last several weeks, prompting area schools to send out letters warning parents about the virus. At least two districts, however, say that flu activity in their scho...
Published: 01/19/18

More than 400 apply to Pasco technical high school

School choice for 2018-19 is in full swing, and district officials said they’ve been pleased with the interest they’ve seen so far.The window for applying to the district’s magnet schools closed Jan. 12, except for applications for the new Wendell Kr...
Published: 01/18/18
Read the report on the fatal FSU frat party: ‘The most intoxicated’ they had ever been

Read the report on the fatal FSU frat party: ‘The most intoxicated’ they had ever been

"On Nov. 3, 2017, the Tallahassee Police Department responded to 1012 Buena Vista Drive … in reference to a death investigation."So begins a charging document in the case of Andrew Coffey, the 20-year-old Florida State University student who was foun...
Published: 01/18/18
In St. Petersburg, skeptics sneer at plan to concentrate USF power in Tampa

In St. Petersburg, skeptics sneer at plan to concentrate USF power in Tampa

In the state capitol on Wednesday, lawmakers breezed through the bullet points of a higher education bill. They skimmed past a hot-button proposal to consolidate the University of South Florida System into a single university without a peep of pushba...
Published: 01/18/18
Lithia Springs Elementary gets kids up with standing desks

Lithia Springs Elementary gets kids up with standing desks

VALRICO — Fifth-grade math teacher Melissa Forsythe walked around her Lithia Springs Elementary School classroom on Tuesday with zeal.She stopped at each station and listened with a big smile on her face as her students told stories about their new s...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Five things to know about teacher pay negotiations in Hillsborough

Five things to know about teacher pay negotiations in Hillsborough

TAMPA — They were hoping to receive between $15 million and $17 million in scheduled pay raises. But the Hillsborough County school district says it can’t afford to give its teachers anywhere near that much, while the teachers say they deserve nothin...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18
Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

NEW PORT RICHEY — At age 28, things were really shaping up for Joel Santos-Gonzalez. Fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher, he had just completed his third year at Gulf Middle School."I always liked to talk to people on an intellectual ...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18