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Sat, Aug. 24

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Editorial comments and recent letters have included misinformation about the valedictorian and salutatorian honors and the newer Graduate-with-Distinction honors.

Four years ago, the Prescott High School (PHS) decided to replace the valedictorian and salutatorian honors with a more fair and equitable honor: Graduates with Distinction. With valedictorian and salutatorian honors, it is impossible to tell who really is at the top because it depends solely on grade point average (GPA). 

Students who earn more credits suffer a mathematical penalty when officials decide who will be valedictorian and salutatorian. A student who earns 22 credits with all As including one Advanced Placement (AP) class, would have a 4.05 GPA. A student who earns 24 credits with all As including one AP class, would have a 4.04 GPA.

The student who took fewer classes would end up with the higher GPA even though both earned all As and took one AP class. Often a hundredth or even a thousandth of a point separated the two honors. Obviously, this is not an equitable way to decide who is the top of the class.

To be a Graduate with Distinction, a student must earn 24 credits (two more than the 22 necessary for graduation), finish with a 4.0 or better GPA (4.0 = A), take at least one AP class and earn credit for the 16 units that Arizona Universities require for admissions.

I'm not sure how The Daily Courier and others equate this to PHS not honoring excellence or being afraid of competition. Only an excellent, highly capable and motivated student can meet those criteria. The Graduating with Distinction honor is a fair, challenging replacement for valedictorian and salutatorian actually has raised the bar in honoring top students.

The debate centers on class ranking. First, we supply a ranking or percentage of class whenever universities and colleges request them. Second, most universities and colleges don't request a ranking because they recognize the inequities from some students taking weighted AP classes and the variety of graduating class sizes.

It's possible to compare class ranking only when the graduating classes have the same number of students and they all took the same number and difficulty level of classes. Universities and colleges look at a variety of predictors of success in college. Several top in-state and out-of-state universities and colleges have told us they've never denied our students admission or scholarship money because of class ranking. 

I'm proud of Prescott High School establishing a truly fair and challenging honor for its students. I am also proud of all of our 2006 Graduates with Distinction. They earned their honors.

I truly hope that this helps you and all of your readers to understand the facts in this debate.

(Patty Delp is an academic advisor at Prescott High School.)

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