Most Florida high schools use simple math to determine their top-ranked senior each spring: The teens with the highest grade-point average become No. 1.
Leaders of one Pasco County charter school want their valedictorian to represent more.
Citing their school’s focus on building intellectual and moral leadership, Classical Preparatory School has proposed adding students’ Advanced Placement test results, ACT and SAT scores, and disciplinary records to the formula for determining who is the top student in the class.
“CPS has a unique vision, and it is reflected throughout the curriculum, including in the new valedictorian/salutatorian criteria,” founder Anne Corcoran, the wife of Florida’s education commissioner, said via email.
Classical Prep, which opened in 2014, requires students to take a core liberal arts curriculum that includes lessons in Latin, logic and the classics. (Some of its priorities can be found in the state’s newly adopted language arts and math standards.)
That means being able to think critically and present your thoughts coherently, Corcoran said. Hence the proposal to use seniors’ AP exam outcomes in the valedictorian formula.
“While the school encourages students to take AP classes and get the grade credit (notice the grades are by far the highest weight in the Val/Sal calculation), the school also values the critical thinking and writing skills needed to actually pass the test,” she explained.
A strong liberal arts education also means making good decisions, Corcoran added. So barring students with certain disciplinary infractions from becoming valedictorian or salutatorian, and holding a review for anyone with other violations, also fits with the system, she said.
“For the student representing the class as first or second in scholarship, one of the more serious discipline infractions would disqualify him or her from this particular honor,” Corcoran said.
The charter school asked the Pasco County School Board to amend its contract to allow for this change to its student progression plan. The board approved the change on Tuesday.
The School Board is not looking to adopt a similar rule districtwide.
The district has had its own set of controversies over class ranking, but superintendent Kurt Browning remains stung by the forceful pushback he received six years ago after he recommended doing away with the valedictorian and salutatorian honors.
The district revamped the way it determines who’s No. 1 in 2017, but has no intention of going further.
Browning “is planning no changes to vals and sals. No changes. At. All,” district spokesman Steve Hegarty said via text message.
The Classical Prep change will not take effect for another two or three years, Corcoran said. Her school leadership simply wanted to get the rule in place for future graduating classes.