Top academic honors should require rigor



As the end of the school year approaches, seniors who have set high academic goals for themselves over the years look back on their final GPA as the valedictorian and salutatorian of their class are announced. However, the title may no longer signify the achievement it once did.

Being named valedictorian has always been an honor. It symbolizes hard work and academic achievement throughout high school. Maintaining a 4.0 GPA is not an easy task, and students who accomplish it deserve recognition. However, the system currently used for determining valedictorians and salutatorians allows the possibility of students ranking highly simply because they took the ‘easy’ classes, and it could lead some to think the title is undeserved or is now nothing more than a meaningless title.

Marshfield currently uses an unweighted GPA system, meaning students are given points based on their final grade in a class and the average of all the classes taken during high school amounts to the final GPA. This may seem like a fair system since a good class ranking depends solely on an individual’s grade. However, some students have argued the system does not give credit to those who have taken some of the most difficult classes offered at Marshfield. Advanced Placement (AP) classes are designed to be more challenging than regular classes so receiving a perfect grade is more difficult. Shouldn’t an ‘A’ in AP Calculus be worth more than an ‘A’ in financial algebra?

Some schools have begun using a weighted GPA to solve this issue. Students enrolled in AP, honors or advanced courses are awarded five points for an A, four points for a B, three points for a C and one point for a D. Regular courses give four points for an A, three points for a B, two points for a C and one point for a D. A student who has taken all advanced classes and received an A in all of them would end up with a 5.0 GPA on a 4-point scale. Switching to this method would better help determine how students should be ranked since it takes into consideration the difficulty of the class. However, the unweighted system should not be thrown out completely. While this inflated GPA would be helpful in identifying students in challenging courses, colleges would still need to compare all of their applicants on a 4-point scale.

MHS does not offer as many extra-curricular activities or advanced courses as bigger schools do, which makes standing out from the crowd of students applying for college difficult. Having a 5.0 GPA included in your transcript may give students a small advantage.

Not all students who are named valedictorian or salutatorian have made this accomplishment by taking the easy way. Many of them have taken challenging courses and have done very well. Switching the method used to determine it would make the title more difficult to reach and end the notion that the title is given to those who took the easy route.