Howard board OKs weighted class ranks System adds credit for tougher courses

August 28, 1998|By Erika D. Peterman | Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF

Howard County school board members voted yesterday to offer a weighted class ranking option in high schools, which will give students extra "quality points" for excelling in upper-level courses.

Students will be able to choose a weighted or unweighted class rank to submit to colleges. Weighted class rank will be used only for college admission and scholarship application purposes.

School board members hope to offer the option in time for the 1999 graduating class.

Last night's vote was good news to parents and students who had lobbied for the change for months. But it contradicted an earlier staff report that suggested keeping the "decile" ranking system that divides the number of people in a graduating class by 10, then groups them in descending order according to grade point averages.

Those in favor of the change have said that a weighted class ranking system is the only way to ensure that Howard County's high-achieving students are compared fairly to others nationwide, many of whom receive a weighted rank. Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties all have some type of weighted class ranking system that takes course levels into account.

Board members said giving students a choice eliminated any potential downside to weighting. Member Karen Campbell voted against the measure.

Board member Linda Johnston said, "I think if we can present the option to our students and parents, we're really presenting an advantage for those students who want it and no disadvantages" to those who don't.

Board member Jane Schuchardt said she didn't want students to lose scholarship opportunities, particularly if a weighted rank would better their chances.

"I don't see where we lose anything by giving the student the [weighted] ranking," she said.

Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said the advantages of using a weighted ranking system were minimal and could have a negative effect on students who do not take advanced classes.

The staff report to the Howard County school board also cautioned that "weighting lowers the class rank for others who do not take [advanced placement] or [gifted-talented] classes and suggests to students that some courses are less worthy because they are not weighted."

Hickey said, "It still opens up the philosophical debate about whether the work of some students is worth more than others."

But Stephen Bounds, board chairman, said students should be rewarded for taking the most advanced courses that the school system offers.

"Worthy is not the issue," Bounds said. "It's rigor. There ought to be a recognition of academic rigor."

Also at last night's meeting:

The board heard a report on the results of the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills that students in grades two, four, six and nine took in March. Howard County students scored as a group at the 73rd percentile, 23 percent above the national norm.

The board voted to toughen the school system's policy of punishing students who assault or batter school staff members.

Under the changes, the superintendent can 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.

Pub Date: 8/28/98

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