Weighted class ranking is urged Parents say system would help in college admission, scholarships

July 24, 1998|By Erika D. Peterman | Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF

Parents urged the Howard County school board to implement a weighted class ranking system in high schools at a public hearing last night, saying that it could give students taking advanced classes an advantage in the college admission process and better scholarship opportunities.

A weighted ranking system would involve giving students extra "quality points" for excelling in upper-level honors courses. If approved, the system would be used only for college admissions purposes, not for other activities requiring the report of a grade-point average such as honor roll.

Currently, the school system does not weight grades or class rank according to course levels, although the issue has been discussed over the years, according to school officials. Instead, the schools use a "decile ranking" system, in which the total number of students in a class is divided by 10 to establish groupings. The students in decile one, for example, would represent the highest grade-point averages for that class and so on.

But several parents said that a weighted system is the only way to ensure that Howard County's top students are compared fairly with similar students nationwide at college admission and scholarship time. Many school systems across the country use a weighted system, they noted.

"What happens to our students once they pick a school and then must compete with students of similar credentials for select programs within the college and for scholarship money?" asked parent Susan Siegel. "Here, class rank becomes vitally important because it is one of the few criteria on which similar students can be compared."

Elizabeth Riordon said that two of her children were hurt by the current policy when they transferred to Howard County high schools and their prior grades, which had been weighted to reflect advanced course work, were changed to an unweighted, lower numerical grade.

"Now, all that hard work elsewhere must be reduced to a footnote, saying that two of their three high schools gave weighted grades, but that those grades have not been taken into account by their school of graduation in their GPA," said Riordon, who has a daughter at River Hill High School. "Will a university staff notice that little footnote?"

Some suggested a dual ranking approach, allowing students to choose the ranking process that suits them best.

Also at last night's meeting:

Parents and PTA members presented the board with an early wish list to be considered in the 2000 capital budget and the 2001-2005 capital improvement program. Concerns included making some schools more accessible to physically disabled students, fixing ailing ventilation, heating and air-conditioning systems and renovating older schools.

The board considered toughening the school system's policy of punishing students who assault or batter school staff members. Under the proposed changes, the superintendent could expel a student for a first offense of serious assault and battery -- defined as any action that causes a substantial risk of death or prolonged injury -- and expel a student for a second battery violation. A hearing on the issue will be Aug. 27.

The board heard a report on the results of state functional tests for children in grades six through nine and grade 11 for the 1997-1998 school year. Howard County 11th-graders met the "excellent" standard in writing this year compared with the "satisfactory" standard reached during the 1996-1997 school year. Passing rates in math improved slightly in grades seven through nine, and the passing rate in writing for eighth-graders was at an all-time high of 92.8 percent.

The board approved design plans for additions and renovations to Columbia's Phelps Luck Elementary School, which will include five new teaching stations and classrooms, an upgraded ventilation, heating and air-conditioning system, a sprinkler system and renovations to the administration suite. The project, which will cost about $1 million, is scheduled to be finished by August 1999.

Pub Date: 7/24/98

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