By Elise Franco
A new ranking system at Canfield High School will more fairly recognize the achievements of its students, district officials say.
Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, students will be ranked using a weighted grade-point- average system instead of the current weighted ranking system. The board of education has approved the change.
John Tullio, principal for grades 11 and 12, said the current system assigns “quality points” based on the classes students take.
He said in order to be ranked valedictorian or salutatorian under this system, students must take and obtain A’s in a certain number of Advanced Placement and honors courses.
For example, AP English is now worth six quality points, and regular English is four.
“Basically, when you look at the way we ranked our students, a Top 10 student at Canfield could have easily been No. 1 at another [smaller] school in Ohio,” Tullio said.
Becky Heikkinen, high-school guidance counselor, said Canfield’s ranking system doesn’t give a true picture of how the students perform because of large class sizes. More than 280 seniors graduated from Canfield in 2011.
“Only kids with every honors class and all A’s could be valedictorian in Canfield,” she said. “We have kids who are a half-point away, and they worked hard and deserve the recognition too.
“A 3.1 GPA might put a student in the bottom half of the class, which is certainly not typical in schools across the state.”
The new system would allow the district to integrate more AP courses and changes the way points are awarded. This would mirror how most colleges and universities rank students, using cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude.
To be considered for cum laude status, a student must take at least one honors class. A student also could still receive the highest honor of summa cum laude with one or two B’s, depending on the number of classes he or she completed.
“It’s very important to recognize all of the highest-achieving students,” Heikkinen said. “We feel with this system, maybe 15 percent of each graduating class could graduate with honors, like in college.”
The new system will be three-tiered. AP courses will be worth 5 points, honors courses worth 41/2 and all others 4 points.
Heikkinen said to her knowledge Canfield is the first district in Mahoning County to make this change.
She expects, however, more local districts to move to a weighted grade-point-average-based system in coming years. Heikkinen said most suburban districts in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati have already done so, some for more than a decade.
“This opens the door to offer more AP classes for college credit, and that’s important because they are available,” she said.
She said the district received a $20,000 grant to be used over two years that will help implement more AP courses at Canfield High School.
Heikkinen said many upperclassmen and recent graduates touted the new system, but she’s heard some negative opinions from several underclassmen who will be affected by the change.
“I would encourage [underclassmen] to talk to the juniors and seniors and kids who have graduated. ... As 10th-graders, there are 30 or 40 of them with a 4.0,” she said. “They’ll begin to fall by the wayside, and I think then they’re going to feel differently.”
Austintown Superintendent Vincent Colaluca said administrators there are looking to make some changes. The Austintown district uses a system where a graduating class could have multiple valedictorians.
“We’ve discussed changing our system because universities have stopped giving [money] to valedictorians,” he said. “More and more scholarship dollars are based on ACT test scores.”
Colaluca said he’d like to put together a committee to review Austintown’s system and look at what criteria changes can be made.