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Elkhorn schools drop weighted grading

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Stan Milam
January 18, 2013

A divided Elkhorn School Board on Monday voted to drop the district's weighted grading system in favor of laude recognition.

On a 4-3 vote, the board voted to go to a system that eliminates the weighted grade point system and recognizes high student achievement in three categories—summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude.

The laude system is based on grade point average and the number of advanced courses taken.

For example, a student with a 3.5 grade point average could achieve summa cum laude by taking 13 advanced courses. A student with a 4.0 grade point average could achieve the same summa cum laude designation by taking 11 advanced courses.

The 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.

The weighted grade system gives an A student four points in an unweighted class and five points in a weighted, usually Advanced Placement, class. Critics of the weighted system say it encouraged parents and students to play a mathematical game that results in students taking study halls rather than academic electives to protect their grade point averages and class ranks.

Supporters of the laude system say it recognizes student achievement without penalizing them for taking non-honors courses of interest. Students taking advanced courses receive summa, magna or cum laude recognition depending on the number of advanced courses taken, but their grade point averages remain consistent on a 4-point scale.

A similar laude grading system is used in several Wisconsin high schools including East Troy and Lake Geneva Badger.

The new system will go into effect for freshmen entering Elkhorn High School in the fall of 2013. Those students, the class of 2017, and students in later classes will be graded under the laude system, but current students will remain under the weighted system.

Supporters of the laude system point out that many colleges and universities unweight or recalculate grades and grade point averages when considering applicants, including UW-Whitewater, UW-Madison, Ripon College, Beloit College and Marquette University. Brown University and Northwestern are examples of nationally prominent universities that look beyond grade point averages and weighted systems.

Elkhorn Administrator Greg Wescott said he was glad to see the board make a decision.

"For the past 20 years, off and on, this has been a topic of discussion," Wescott said. "It's important to have a fair comparison of academic achievement, and I think this vote moves the district forward past this 20-year debate."



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