HomeHaddonfield NewsChanges in student achievement policy approved at BOE meeting

Changes in student achievement policy approved at BOE meeting

Traditional binary graduation ranking will yield to collegiate honors.

Commencing with the graduating class of 2022-23 — this year’s freshmen at Haddonfield Memorial High School — students who rank at the top of their class will no longer be subject to the traditional, binary valedictorian and salutatorian ranks.  

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Instead, thanks to approval by the board of education at its January public session, high-achieving members of the class of 2023 will be grouped according to a multitiered system more in line with how colleges and universities rank their students. 

Under Policy 5432, Student Recognition – Cum Laude, HMHS students’ academic recognition will be grouped according to three classifications: cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude

Superintendent Larry Mussoline had spoken about the potential for change as far back as last spring, and reiterated the board’s desire to move on the subject when he spoke with the Sun in early December, prior to the board’s final meeting of 2019. 

According to a presentation made at the board’s Jan. 30 session, the move toward the Latin system of recognition is as a result of several factors: the public at large being familiar with that system from their own previous academic experiences; Latin honors being a more equitable way to recognize academic excellence without the need to recognize success or failure; and the tiered system allows for a broader spectrum of academic achievements, and it will allow for recognition of more students for their commitment to exceeding academic standards. 

Conversely, according to the presentation, class rank — the major factor in determining who will be salutatorian and valedictorian in a particular class — has seen a swift decline as an important factor in the college admissions process. In its annual survey of admissions offices, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) found that class rank was of “considerable importance” to 42 percent of surveyed colleges in 1993, but only 19 percent in 2011.

“The board has been deliberating and discussing this policy for a few months. The research gathered pointed to the fact that class rank based on weighted GPA calculations is decreasing in importance for college entrance,” Mussoline stated. 

“Therefore, a main intent of the policy is to take down the self-imposed pressure of worrying about GPA calculations and focus students on doing well in courses they are enrolled in or open opportunities to take more interest-based courses.”

A detailed breakdown of the methodology behind the decision can be found on the board of education’s website at: https://haddonfieldschools.org/announcements-and-news-releases/

In addition, the board approved a move to alter the weighting impact that Advanced Placement courses have on HMHS students’ grade point average (GPA). 

At present, AP courses add 12 extra weighted points to a student’s GPA, while accelerated courses add only eight. The board felt the four-point discrepancy was too great, and with a drop in colleges paying attention to GPA and their collective inability to comprehend different weighting systems across the country, felt a change was necessary. The board also found that 30 percent of HMHS students who enrolled in AP courses did not take the final test, yet still received full grade weighting. 

As a result, the board adjusted the AP course weighting to 10 points, with a two-point bonus for completing the AP test per college board rules if the student so desires. The adjusted AP weight will be phased in with the onset of the 2021-22 school year. There is no change in the current AP weighting system for next year.

“The course-weighting change was essentially based on ensuring fidelity to the AP national program as it relates to the national curriculum and assessment tied to that curriculum, yet it provides options for students under the AP umbrella,” Mussoline explained. 

“That particular change, or slight deviations of it, are aspects of many school districts in New Jersey and across the nation. It’s nothing new.”

A detailed breakdown of the methodology behind the AP weighting changes can be found on the BOE site, at: https://tinyurl.com/vmlmhdg

In other news

  • The board commended HMHS students Julian George and Pierre Yan for their triumph in the Congressional App Challenge. The pair are currently at work on what they dubbed Market Royale, an app that aims to teach students about a wide array of financial matters, including how to play the stock market. 
  • Three new student representatives to the board were sworn in, for a term lasting from January 2020 through January 2021: Evelyn Ellis, Daniel Cavanna and Marc LaProcido.
  • The board also approved out-of-district tuition rates for the 2020-21 school year: $2,970 for preschool, $13,200 for middle school, $15,480 for high school and $25,000 for international students. 
Former radio broadcaster, hockey writer, Current: main beat reporter for Haddonfield, Cherry Hill and points beyond.

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