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Sat, Nov. 16

Students, parents unhappy with new graduation policy

PRESCOTT ­ Several students and parents Tuesday night expressed their distaste for a new graduation policy that will begin this year at Prescott High School.

Instead of honoring valedictorians or salutatorians, the policy would have graduation this year honor "graduates with distinction." A 2002 committee comprising teachers, counselors and parents created the policy, which will go into effect for this year's seniors.

"Graduates with distinction" must meet four criteria, including earning at least a 4.0 grade-point-average, earning 24 credits (rather than the normal 22), passing one advanced placement course and earning the 16 credits the Arizona Board of Regents requires for university admission.

Also, members of classes from 2006 on have no class rankings.

According to minutes from the 2002 committee that created the new policy, it would discourage competition among students and would encourage students to work to their own high standards.

It would not discriminate between students who have a grade-point-average of better than 4.0 and would encourage students to take full loads every semester and to get the most out of their time at the school.

However, several parents and students who spoke during a Tuesday evening Prescott Unified School District Governing Board meeting said they didn't receive notice of the policy until it was too late to earn all of the proper credits.

Others said competition is OK ­ that it exists in the real world and high school students should experience it, too.

And others said the lack of a ranking puts students at a disadvantage when they're applying to colleges.

Judy Martinez, a member of the committee that originally designed the policy, said counselors discussed the "graduates with distinction" honor at eighth-grade orientation and every year when students registered for classes.

"We've been advertising it for four years," she said.

However, Lori Collison, whose daughter is a senior, said, "Many students were not told about the extra credit classes until the middle of their junior year."

"Competition is a good thing," said Steve Adams, whose daughter is a senior. "It makes everything in life better. The reality is that it's a competitive world. Once the students step out of the halls of PHS, they're going to be competing for a limited amount of money."

When he took his daughter to a college to apply for financial aid, her grade-point-average and SAT scores qualified her for a higher level of financial aid than the school would give her without her having a class ranking.

He later said, "We're asking for recognition. More than honor, this accrues to a real benefit to them in the real world."

The graduation procedures item on Tuesday's agenda was a study item only. Board Member Tom Staley crafted a possible motion that would reinstate one or more valedictorian and salutatorian positions for this year's graduation, would honor the top 5 percent of students in this year's graduating class and would provide class rankings.

"Someone's going to be the best student," said Jenny Phelps, who came to the meeting although she doesn't have any children in high school now. "That's just the way it is."

Staley said the school has basketball, baseball, football and track teams, all of which compete ­ and he doesn't see anything wrong with competing academically, too, and honoring the best of that field.

Board President Joan Fleming said the school's site council generally makes decisions regarding graduation but that the board will vote during its April 18 voting session on a possible solution to this problem.

Contact the reporter at hdartt@prescottaz.com

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