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Editorial: Students too competitive?

Graduates

2016 graduating North Rowan senior Timothy Robinson reaches low to give high-fives to North Rowan Elementary School students. The state’s graduation rate is the highest it has ever been. Jon C. Lakey/Salisbury Post

The competition among high school students for valedictorian and salutatorian should cool after new state grading standards are fully in effect. The change may not, however, fully satisfy school administrators who say students go overboard in their quest to be No. 1.

This is an addendum to last Sunday’s editorial, “Being No. 1 still matters.” High school principals have asked the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education to do away with valedictorians and salutatorians. Students start jockeying for position as soon as they enter high school, the administrators say, and load up on Advanced Placement courses even though their interests might be more aligned with other courses.

Why? Because for several years an A in an AP course has been worth 6 points, while an A in a regular course was worth only 4. In between, honors courses and some college courses were worth 5 points at most. No wonder the go-getters were loading up on AP courses.

The State Board of Education addressed this issue in August 2014 when it approved new grading standards. Beginning with the Class of 2019, now just two years away from graduation, an A in an AP course is weighted the same as a college course and earns a 5.0, an A in an honors course is worth 4.5, and an A in a regular course is a 4.0.

At the time of the vote, state education officials said the change should reduce grade inflation, give equal weight for college courses and make honors and regular classes more attractive to high-achievers. Whether the change accomplishes all that — or just makes the competition for No. 1 even tighter — remains to be seen.

It’s interesting to note how another area school with a wealth of high-achieving students handles the competition issue. Gray Stone Day School in Misenheimer does not name a valedictorian and salutatorian; the public charter school doesn’t even release class rank. Instead, Gray Stone recognizes students with honors, high honors or highest honors, depending on their weighted GPA.

Parents question the suggestion that high-achievers can take too many AP courses or be too competitive. No one questions the motivation — or course selection — of high school athletes who thrive on competition. But the question of how top honors are given and defined is a deeper issue than it appears on the surface.

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