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Evansville considering grading system switch

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Gina Duwe
February 5, 2013

— Evansville High School is exploring dropping class rankings and replacing it with the laude system, which recognizes students for the rigor and success of their academic courses.

The laude system promotes taking rigorous classes, while the class rank system doesn't, Principal Scott Everson said. Class rank can discourage students from taking top classes for fear of getting an A- or B+ and dropping in rank, he said.

Evansville uses a class rank system based on grade-point average. A growing body of literature indicates class rank is the worst statistic to use in education, Everson said.

The school's leadership team decided to explore the idea of a laude system as part of an ongoing school improvement effort, he said. The team has communicated with parents, especially parents of eighth-grade students, and faculty to discuss the pros and cons. A website was created to share details about the concept.

The Elkhorn School District in January approved a switch to the laude system. It recognizes high student achievement in three categories—summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude—based on grade point average and the number of advanced courses taken.

The Elkhorn system ranges from summa cum laude students with a 4.0 grade point average and 15 advanced courses to cum laude students with a 3.5 grade point average and one advanced course.

Based on his research, Everson said laude systems seem to be a trend among several high schools. A growing number of districts are dropping class rank, he said.

East Troy is the only other Rock Valley Conference district he knows of on the laude system, he said.

For some students, the pressure of a high class rank can cause them to avoid challenging classes, have excessive competition with classmates and be unwilling to take academic and intellectual risks, according to Evansville's website.

Administrators have talked with the student council's leadership members, who agreed those are factors for some kids, but they weren't sure how many, Everson said

To be in the top 15 percent of this year's graduating class at Evansville, students would need a GPA above 3.905.

Everson has talked with college admissions officials, including at University of Wisconsin schools, who use a holistic student approach and consider class rank as just one factor.

At UW schools, officials said they're interested in students taking above the minimum and seeing how they perform in the best classes.

"It seems to be a common thread talking to admissions people," Everson said.

Evansville High School officials have no timeline for making a decision, but if the switch is made, it could be in place for the incoming freshmen in fall, Everson said. There's a lot to consider, he said, including the impact on local scholarships, course offerings and college admissions.



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