Rethink School Honors System

Getting the best grades, not necessarily the best education, becomes a goal for some high school students — and their parents. The reason is obvious. A high ranking in one’s graduating class makes a student more attractive to colleges and universities, as well as those who hand out scholarships.

Wheeling Park High School Principal Amy Minch wants to make changes aimed at reducing the competition for top grades. She outlined her ideas to Ohio County Board of Education members this week.

Minch said she wants to put an end to “the game” in which some students choose classes based on the prospect of getting top grades, rather than on learning as much as they can. Specifically, Minch wants to replace honors for class rankings with more general ones, based on categories used historically by many education institutions. Students would be recognized for “cum laude,” “magna cum laude” and “summa cum laude” work.

Loosely translated, the terms mean, respectively,

“with distinction, praise or honor,” “with great distinction, praise or honor,” and “with highest distinction, praise or honor.”

Board members seemed interested in Minch’s idea. “We’ve got to make it fairer for everyone,” member Sarah Koegler remarked.

Minch was instructed to prepare a report, with options for consideration. Three board members agreed to serve as a committee to look at the plan.

It seems obvious that encouraging high-achieving students to take “cake courses” in a quest for high grades is not a good idea. Encouraging them to take tougher classes — and recognizing them for that — is preferable.

That said, it needs to be understood that students and parents will always find some way to “game the system.”

Still, Minch’s proposal is worth consideration, after consultation with the students and parents who will be affected by it.

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