Interesting Follow Up on Summa Cum Laude

On Tuesday, February 22, I published a blog post (Junior High End-of-Year & JH Celebration 2010-11) announcing several changes to the end-of-year schedule for Junior High, including details about transitions from “JH Honors Day” to “JH Celebration.” On Tuesday, that post received 831 “hits” or views.

At the time of this writing, the post has received 958 views in total. However, not one viewer has left a comment on the post. (The comment listed is simply a tweet mentioning the post – a “ping back” of sorts.) Not even one viewer commented on agreement with or disdain for the decisions and changes. Over 1300 parents and educators were sent an email with a link to the post. Not one comment. I find that fascinating.

Nevertheless, I have received other forms of communication about the changes to Honors Day – now called Junior High Celebration. Approximately 55 people have communicated with me about the changes:

  • Overall, I would characterize the communications as mostly positive. About 40 contacts have expressed appreciation and agreement with the changes. About 5 contacts sought clarity about how summa cum caude is calculated. About ten contacts have expressed concern. I appreciate that people are using email, phone calls, and face-to-face opportunity to provide feedback. Some communications are more respectful and tactful than others, but I appreciate that people are communicating. Even if I disagree with what they communicate, I appreciate that they are communicating. If people don’t communicate, it is terribly challenging to know what folks are thinking and feeling.
  • Yesterday, however, one parent used the phrase that people are “up in arms” about the changes. This alarmed me and surprised me. I certainly don’t want people to be “up in arms.” What shocked me is that my “recon” tells a very different story.
    • Not one person left a comment on the blog.
    • Of the 55 communications I have received, about 40 have been positive and supportive of the changes.
    • None of the grade chairs have reported any upset or disagreeing parent communications.
    • Only one teacher has reported a conversation with a student who was concerned with the changes.
    • Two PAWS (Parents Association of the Westminster Schools) representatives have communicated to me that people are upset. From what they tell me, though, I feel like there is confusion about the summa cum laude decision.

Consequently, I want to try explaining the summa cum laude decision another way…

  • For as long as I have been at Westminster (16 years), we have designated an Honor Roll and a Merit List. Summa cum laude, in some ways, is simply an extention of this long-standing system.
    • To earn Merit List distinction, a student must maintain a GPA of 80 or higher, with no grade below 75.
    • To earn Honor Roll distinction, a student must maintain a GPA of 88 or higher, with no grade below 75. [During my time, this GPA requirement rose from 87 to 88 with virtually no challenges to the change.]
    • At the end of semester one, 480 students achieved Honor Roll. 56 achieved Merit List. 23 did not receive either distinction. This is a fairly typical spread. However, the change in policy last year to “no zeros” has had a slight effect.
    • During the year of discussions about honors and awards, teachers and parents and students communicated that the Honor Roll does not seem “discerning” enough. Many wanted a “third tier.”
    • To my knowledge, we have never had a strong parent objection to the existence of an Honor Roll/Merit List system based on GPA. There is some faculty concern about the existence of this system.
  • For as long as I have been at Westminster, Junior High Honors Day has recognized just 6 students (one from each grade and gender) for “Highest Academic Average.” In most cases, the difference between receiving this honor and “finishing second” has been caused by just hundredths of a point. And grading practices among teachers are not perfectly uniform. With the summa cum laude system, we can have multiple “valedictorians” from each grade and gender group. Just as with Honor Roll and Merit List, if you earn the grades – through hard work, solid assessment performance, diligent effort – then you are eligible for the distinction. The standard for achievement is clear and visible. It is no longer a behind-the-scenes, head-to-head¬†competition for hundredths of a point. We have ended the sense of “there can only be one.” If we had had the summa cum laude tier last year, about 40 middle school students would have earned the honor.

Below is a simple poll. I hope you will take a few seconds to provide some feedback. [I will blog about the change in departmental awards ASAP.]

29 thoughts on “Interesting Follow Up on Summa Cum Laude

  1. It is excellent that the scope of the summa cum laude award has been expanded. However, in my opinion this expansion does not go far enough. I think that all students who maintain an “A” average for the entire year deserve some recognition. Our current standard of grading recognizes an “A” as a superior academic performance. Hard work and effort should be rewarded.

    Perhaps there could be a tiered recognition that allows a more substantial award/recognition for the summa cum laude, while the “magna cum laude” could simply stand when their names were called. This would not diminish the accomplishments of the summas, but would reward “close” efforts and allow more tangible opportunity for others to be included.

    I disagree that academic ranking places undo pressure on the kids. We live in a competitive society and we need to prepare our children for that reality.

  2. After much consideration, I have to say that I do not agree with the addition of SCL to the JHS Celebration.

    It has taken me a few days to figure out how to articulate my thoughts on this matter, and honestly, I would not have initially been inclined to post to a blog with my concerns. Perhaps that is more the nature of most of our JHS parent generation, a group more appropriately characterized as immigrants to the 21st century technology and social networking. So, on that point, I echo the thoughts of several before me that a lack of response to the first announcement is not particularly meaningful in terms of reading assent to or disagreement with the changes.

    Regardless, after a bit of reflection, I believe Steve Zoellick has hit the nail on the head for me. At first, I was intrigued with the addition of a third layer of recognition for academic success. However, when my 7th grader asked whether I thought she might qualify for this recognition, I realized that this designation really would have the potential to put a lot of unnecessary academic pressure on our JHS students. I know that it is intended to create positive reinforcement for those who attain such high grades, but I fear the downside of that recognition is too great.

    I love that Westminster JHS encourages our children to explore their undiscovered talents, to stretch beyond their comfort zones, to reach into new friendships, and to balance all of this with establishing excellent work habits regardless of the resulting grade. Will this new designation cause some of our students to forego a growth mindset in their JHS experience in an effort to achieve a numerical measure of academic success?

    I just don’t think it is in the best interest of the students overall to add this label at the junior high level.

  3. Initially, I liked the idea of honoring all students who achieve the very highest academic distinction as SCL as opposed to just two valedictorians for each grade. However, the more I think about it, the more I believe that this higher tier of distinction will both ratchet up the already considerable pressure on our children and devalue the honor roll recognition. Our children are already competing and excelling in a myriad of activities on regular basis — academic, athletic and service-based. Are they now going to infer that making honor roll is no longer enough? That there is now a higher hurdle they must clear? The fact that many of our junior high students currently make the honor roll does not mean that it is an easy task. I am afraid that a new “super honor roll” will place unnecessary added pressure on already good students and will increase the risk that some of these children may burn out before they enter high school. I hope that the administration will consider the added pressure that this change will bring before it is implemented.

  4. I hadn’t really thought much about all this until I started reading the comments. Then I had a very enlightening discussion with my 9th grader. I was surprised by our different perspectives. _MY_ gut reaction to the new summa cum laude tier was that this was a GOOD THING because, as a parent/adult, I feel that students who achieve a GPA 95 or above deserve recognition. This is similar to Woodward Academy’s “Silver Eagle” and “Gold Eagle” awards for “superior academic achievement”.

    My 9th grader, however, had the reaction: “Oh no, That’s only going to make a lot of people (students) feel bad.” Why? “because when you look at the ONE kid who got the highest GPA you think, well yeah, that kid deserves it, he’s a genius. I wasn’t going to be able to beat him, but I still did really well.”

    Wow. Looking through my 9th grader’s eyes, I see what he means. If there’s now a whole GROUP who achieves this summa cum laude tier, isn’t there going to be a lot more pressure on kids to be in that 95 GPA GROUP? To get the high GPA, regardless of learning or classes they’re taking? If a kid who has always achieved a high GPA is suddenly worried about being “recognized” for NOT making it into the cum laude tier, will they still want to take the more advanced honor’s math or advanced Spanish class? Why risk the potential embarrassment?

    Frankly, it’s a Catch-22, self-selective population — those kids who would be embarrassed by not making summa cum laude are most likely the same kids who are already very worried about their GPAs and have high grades. I’d hate to see students, or their parents, become so focused on GPA that learning and challenge become secondary.

    As for the departmental awards, my 9th grader and I were in complete agreement that we’d like to see them stay! It was a wonderful opportunity to recognize a student for effort, or to encourage a passion for a particular subject, regardless of their grade in the class. Truly a way to recognize “learning” over “grade”. And honestly, it made the program more interesting and suspenseful when ANYBODY could be the next one called up for an award, and nobody knew who was going to be called next.

    But hey, if you never tried anything new, how would you find anything better?

  5. Agree with the addition of summa cum laude honor and won’t belabor its merits. However, as noted by several others, I disagree with the elimination of class-specific honors and numerous other honors. A position to the effect that the addition of summa cum laude is sufficient to reward those with high academic success misses a critical point – these students are young enough that recognizing achievement of outstanding performance in a specific class or specific effort can create incentive and drive to achieve that will subsequently elevate their future efforts in other areas. Limiting honors celebration recognition by eliminatint these other forms of honors is thus counterproductive to many high-achieving students and to others whose potential has not yet been fully unlocked.

  6. (Re-posted from the poll website as this seemed a more logical place to put it. Having comments on the poll website and here is confusing and perhaps duplicative. Maybe the poll website should direct back here for comments?)

    The poll is not as helpful as it could be, because you can only check one the four options, but the answers listed are not mutually exclusive. For example, one could agree with the first option, that it’s good that all students who qualify can earn distinction, and still agree that it’s bad that the distinction is based on GPA, still want to make a comment, and perhaps still have an “other” category that could be listed.

    And as with any poll, if you don’t ask the right question(s) you won’t get useful answers. For example, what if some parents are concerned that the summa cum laude designation is in part a replacement for the previous, broader, system of course by course recognition. The poll presents it solely as a replacement for the valedictorian status, but the course recognition was dropped at the same time. The new system leaves out a child who excels in a particular area, but not in all areas.

    And the poll does not even start to address whether it’s a good idea to have all these honors for junior high students.

    As to there being no comments on the blog, I’d ascribe this almost entirely to people being new to that form of communication and public vs. private, rather than a lack of interest in commenting. My own inclination is to first either send an email to Bo or to a PAWS rep as those are private commmunications. A blog comment is public (although you don’t have to enter your name.) Also, many, maybe most, online fora require that you register to comment. (This was my assumption before leaving this post.) Who wants yet another login? And what’s going to happen to my email address on a a website named “polldaddy.com”?

  7. The rankings at Westminster always remind me of a student who graduated in my “era” from Westminster…Clark Howard. When he was asked to be the speaker at graduation a few years ago, he revealed that he graduated #4 in his class…..FROM THE BOTTOM! He recounted that a teacher once told him that he would never be a writer. He reminded the teacher 30 years later that he has 4 books on the New York Times Best Seller List.
    The point of his graduation speech was “Dont’ let anyone or anything define you”. It is a testament to Clark’s resiliency and positive attitude that he did not let such academic rankings define him and that he went on with his life to accomplish incredible successes.
    I think that Westminster needs to go beyond academic awards and ENCOURAGE and celebrate all areas of a students strengths and accomplishments. After all, EVERYONE has value to add to the Westminster community, and I believe that it is up to the teachers to find that value in each and every child.

    • A very wise and insightful comment! I couldn’t agree more. Celebrating each and every student is so important. Summa cum laude or whatever name you give an honor or awards sets up a hierarchy. It either discretely or overtly sends many students (16% of the class at WMS’ JHS) the message that they are not good enough. Actually, maybe only the 23 who do not make either award list. Clark Howard would have been in that group.

    • Well stated. Personally speaking, this being our first year at Westminster, we have been extremely pleased with the consistent message of “helping to cultivate and guide the individual student”…it is important to remember that this attitude needs to also be reinforced at home…that in order for a child to be able to grow and learn, their uniqueness needs to be applauded at home…

  8. My business is in direct response, so I’m not surprised by your numbers. According to your post above, a little more than 5% of your readers sent you a response (55/958). That’s actually quite high!
    Even regarding a subject as important as our kid’s education, most of us are not going to comment, call, or write. It’s not that we don’t care or aren’t involved, it’s just human nature. (Plus, many have already commented that they prefer a one-on-one communication — like an email — over a public blog post.)
    I’ve never commented or written (until now). But I do read your communications and find them fascinating. I especially appreciate the detailed numbers above regarding honor and merit roll.
    I think the Summa Cum Laude distinction is a wonderful idea. We should recognize and celebrate more than one student per grade able to achieve such academic success at such a challenging school.
    We are new to the school. But I have always thought that Westminster is about excellence. That excellence could be in academics, sports, the arts, community service, etc. This is merely another way of celebrating academic excellence.
    Finally, at the risk of offending some, I think we all know the type of person who claims to speak for many (“people are up in arms”). I am sure you are wise and experienced enough to take that kind of stuff with a BIG grain of salt! And it looks like your poll numbers bear that out.

  9. Bo, I think the SCL change is very positive–even moreso when I see the spread of students achieving honor roll. On one hand, this is something to be very proud of, as it atests to the overall academic prowess of Westminster students–and as a parent watching my children I know that high grades are not given freely but have to be earned.

    So seeing what a high proportion achieve honor roll, it seems quite clear that a “higher standard” of achievement is worthy of note and recognition. I believe this is much more meaningful than the section awards, which as you pointed out, seem to be awarded for incosistent reasons. I heartily endorse the new designation.

  10. Bo,
    As a teacher, I would affirm what you have shared with parents about the long, open – to JHS faculty – and thoughtful process that led to these decisions. I’m pretty sure we began this deliberation about this time last year, yes? As a homeroom teacher, I have talked with my girls who seem clearly supportive of the greater opportunitites for academic recognition this provides. [This does not address concerns about other kinds of recognition/support raised by others.] My girls ARE concerned about Honor Roll and Merit List, and I am encouraging them to compile their suggestions in a letter to their grade chair who, I know, will give them thoughtful feedback.

    I appreciate Steve Zoellick’s comments about JHS as the age of exploration, “I would not want to see junior high students pass up the opportunity to explore a new art, drama or music class, audition for a play; participate in a sport; take an honors foreign language class, or participate in the Church youth group because they are focused on achieving a grade average of 95.” Along with others who have responded, he spotlights a related, complicated issue – grading.

    Finally, as Jack says, this kind of response is public, takes time, and is new for some of us – but I appreciate the “open door.”

  11. I am not surprised by the lack of formal response to this blog, which I think is as reflective of the general culture of the school community. Having a ranking school adminstrator ask for public feedback — and really wanting it — is atypical.

    From my experience, I think kids at Westminster excel for this primary reason: because they want to. I don’t think that recognition or awards are the initial driver for a student that excels in the classroom, labratory, athletic field or court, on the stage, etc. It is my belief that a kid who excels at this level at this type of school is not putting in the time, energy and effort with the desire to get recognized at the end of the year. They are doing it for the right reason: they want to do their best and are passionate about pursuing that goal.

    I’ve been fortunate to attend a few of the various recognition activities, and I believe that the kids appreciate the recognition, but don’t worry about who is there to see it and who is not. I think that may be more important to some parents than the students themselves.

    Because of the excellent and wide-ranging talents of our student population, I do not believe that there is an approrpriate way to recognize every student that “deserves recognition” for efforts in one celebration without making such an event untenable from a size, scope and length perspective.

    I think the Summa Cum Laude appears to be a better way to recognize excellence in the class room, if that is the objective. It will be interesting to see, if over time, this has a meaningful change in behavior. My guess is that it won’t and you will end up, on average, with the about the same number of students that meet the criteria as has currently been happening without that “tier of recognition.”

    • I completely agree with Mr. Cravens’ comments and add a few of my own.

      When no data is received from a solicitation, I submit that the only conclusion to be drawn is that the solicitation failed.

      I believe that if we encourage our children to be the best they can be, to be the person whom God intended them to be, then our children will not be jealous of those whom achieve higher grades, but will be happy for them and want to applaud their classmates’ successes. Nor will they be super stressed about the grades they have earned because by doing their best, they will be confident and content with their own achievements, and not consumed with the desire to be something they are not. If we remove long standing prestigious academic achievement awards, like SCL, and focus on “bulk recognition,” might we be communicating that when everyone is special, no one really is…. I applaud the “best of the best” with sincere admiration and in doing so am inspired to be the best that I can be.

  12. Bo –

    Thanks for pushing us to examine our thoughts about the addition of the Summa Cum Laude honor and give you feedback. Who was it that said “How do I know what I think until I see what I write?”

    You, your team, and Westminster have absolutely earned my respect and the benefit of any doubt I may have, so my initial reaction was the same as many: If Bo and the JH Faculty have thought this through and believe it is best, I’m sure it’s the right thing. On the positive side of the ledger, I agree with the goal of expanding the highest recognition beyond only the valedictorians to recognize others who have, for all intents, achieved just as much. And at first blush, when 86% of the students are achieving Honor Roll status, adding another tier of recognition also seems appropriate.

    The questions I would raise, however, are how much pressure for grades we want kids in junior high school to put on themselves, and what might the unintended consequences be?

    Because I believe our daughter is typical of many Westminster students, I’ll use her as a sample of one to examine these questions. She is achievement-oriented. If a standard is set for her, she wants to achieve and exceed it. She also has a variety of interests and is enjoying the opportunities for exploration that the Junior High offers. She has taken classes such as Drama that stretch her into new areas, participated in sports that are not in her “sweet spot” for the team experience and variety, and appreciated learning from challenging teachers and courses. She also participates in out-of -school activities and groups, and places a high value on these experiences. And she has been on the Honor Roll in each semester beginning in 6th grade through the first semester of 8th grade.

    This is a big part of what I believe children at this age should be doing: exploring, stretching, growing, and challenging themselves, academically and in other areas. I would not want to see junior high students pass up the opportunity to explore a new art, drama or music class, audition for a play; participate in a sport; take an honors foreign language class, or participate in the Church youth group because they are focused on achieving a grade average of 95.

    Ideally, of course, this will not happen, even when the Summa Cum Laude honor is implemented. Students will do their best in school, take the classes and particpate in the activities that interest them, and those that achieve excellent grades will be recognized for them. In our achievement-oriented society, however, I’m concerned that the unintended consequences will creep in too often, or that those who choose more exploration will feel that their choices are less highly valued.

    So now that I’ve seen what I’ve written, while I am not at all “up in arms”, I think that the new level of recognition is not a good thing on balance. Oddly, this may be because it will appear “too achievable” to too many students, causing them to shift their priorities and balance in a way that is not best at this age.

    Thanks again for your openness and particpative approach to these decisions.

  13. jackm4162′s first paragraph reflects my thoughts with far more eloquence and clarity than I would or could have mustered, both with respect to open blog forums and the space to which the administration is entitled to make well-considered decisions and expect general support from parents. That said, I have enjoyed reading the comments preceding mine, and so I will attempt to reciprocate.

    As to the specifics, since you asked, I think the change from valedictorian to summa cum laude is a needed and welcome change. We as a family have been on both sides of this one over the last six years, and I can say that the value to the single child of receiving the valedictorian award seems small in comparison to the opportunity for perhaps dozens of students to stretch for summa cum laude. I also think discontinuing the departmental awards was wise. As you observed, the criteria were variable enough to appear random, and it seemed the children had only come to value receiving a departmental award to the extent it spared them the stigma of not receiving one. Finally, you might consider printing the names of non-academic award winners in the celebration day program in the same manner that members of the Honor Roll and Merit list are recognized. Those awards do recognize efforts and achievements that we value. But we shouldn’t confuse that with being shy about saying that the primary mission of the school is academic education and development of character and citizenship. The new format appropriately recognizes the highest achievements in those areas.

  14. The change from one top of the class award to summa cum laude is a great effort to motivate kids to achieve higher goal and get recognized for.

  15. I think the change is good. While true it is only rewarding those with high academic success, other types of student achievement are celebrated throughout the year at recognition assemblies.

    Every parent wants his or her child to win an award, to be called up on stage and recognized. But is that the way that “real life” works? Are we setting our kids up for future disappointment by giving them awards just so they don’t feel left out?

  16. Dear Bo,

    This news of transitioning from awards to celebrations warms my heart.

    At the risk of sounding like a member of the ” lake woe-be-gone” (where every child is above average & everybody is perfect) I like this chance for everyone to be recognized for their individual efforts in bringing out the best in themselves. As a society we do send a message to a child that we welcome your effort, dedication and willingness to change, learn and evolve.

    In my work, I deal with children and adults with disabilities, or challenges with their unconventional ways of demonstrating strengths & talents. For such students to strive for academic excellence through conventional landmarks is very difficult. This new system may just prove to be that incentive allowing that much needed elbow-room.

    Form my own children’s point of view, Anant and I as parents, try our best to instill the value that your goal is to do better than what you did yesterday. The best reward or recognition needs to come from within. We do say to our children that it may get lonely at the top but definitely their no single- “1″ at the top. This opportunity of shared recognition of talent is what I believe will make our community more humble and appreciative of others.
    Kudos to you and your team,
    as always- love what you are doing
    Sucheta

  17. Bo,
    I too am a little surprised that no one has posted a response. I have heard all sorts of reactions in the community, from a strongly positive “It’s about time” to all grades of partial agreement and dissent. Nonetheless, to address your query about blogio silence as a response, I would have to say that parents of my generation approach blogs as a public forum, as they should. Most adults from my background have learned, sometimes the hard way, about the difficulties of communicating nuances of meaning in either email or blogs. What we write on a blog, has been, can be, and will be used outside the blogspace to represent our ideas in other forums where the context of what we say is not available to those who were not participants. It’s a public square, private space issue for me and for many others of my generation. I also believe that others like me need time to fully process what all the changes mean before we respond. Though I am ostensibly gregarious and extroverted, I am a more contemplative learner. I have to process in private, ruminate, question, etc., before I am ready to go on the record. Finally, I trust you and the other professionals who teach and coach my child. If this is a change you feel compelled to make, you must make it and assess whether it has the desired effect and impact on the community. You and the faculty have certainly done the leg work and the heavy lifting on the front end, and your first post provided sound evidence of it as well as a clearly articulated rationale. As a parent, I can’t ask for more than that, whether I agree or not with every facet of the plan.
    As for my personal response, I worry that the recognition of only Summa Cum Laude at the Celebration emphasizes only one aspect of a child’s personality. I love the high standard, and making it a function of GPA is not a problem for me since maintaining an average of 95 or above requires not just God-given talent, but also daily hard work. However, there are also others in the school who have achieved national recognition for their physical fitness or statewide recognition for their musical or artisitic efforts. I would argue that recognizing them at today’s Winter Sports assembly or the Monday meetings don’t lend those accomplilshments the same kind of gravitas as would recognizing them at the Celebration. As with the students who earn Summa Cum Laude, those students who achieve Presidential fitness benchmarks or All-State recognition have earned those designations through diligence and an equally worthy and time-consuming personal commitment to develop their different God-given gifts. By recognizing them as well as the students who have achieved at the highest academic level, we are honoring two principles that should inform our daily lives: the beautiful diversity of God’s children and our time-honored commitment to the whole child.

    Jack Morgan

    • Bo and Jack:

      I think Jack speaks wisely about your (Bo) initial condundrum about absence of response. I would add that my thoughts are meant to build on what Jack said so well in his first paragraph.

      With regard to his second paragraph, I totally agree. As a former JHS parent, I do not like systems that award students based on fairly narrow criteria. I don’t think we have a good way of coming up with recognitions or awards that promote the goodness and valued qualities of all students. Seems to me someone is left behind in communities that give awards and recognitions. I am all for recognizing students for their accomplishments, but would love to find a way to recognize all students in real time. Everyday students are doing good things and trying their hardest. Why is recognition time bound and usually linked to GPA (summa cum laude)? Are we absolutely sure we know beyond a doubt what GPA measures?

      Bob

  18. Bo,

    I think the change is an excellent idea. I appreciate all the thought that went into the change. Students have to strive to make good grades for themselves not for an “honor” on honors day. This is just a way to recognize more kids that are striving. I think all of the kids are working hard.

    I was one of the culprits that emailed you and did not “post” originally as I like the privacy of email vs. the openness of a blog.

    Many, many thanks for all of your hard work.

  19. Bo,

    I think the changes are good. This will be my 6th year of going to Junior High “Honors Day” and I think that it needed a change. I also think that raising the bar for the students to a 95 average for public recognition is a good, and motivating thing.

    And, if we all find that it is not working well, or if there are some unanticipated things that happen, I know that you will change it as we go along.

    Lastly, I appreciate all the thought that you put into this change. I think that one of the reasons that you don’t get a lot of feedback is that, as a whole, we trust your judgement and expertise, and we know that you have given this a lot of thought, so if this is what you want to do, then thats fine with me.

  20. Hi Bo-

    My daughter is new to Westminster, so I have no benchmark for comparison. However, I agree with a system that recognizes a more broadly defined group of summa cum laude students.

    As a fellow blogger (my blog receives about 75,000 visitors a month), and a person fascinated with social media, I have many thoughts on both reaching out to and captiring your audience. I’ll send you an email.

  21. Summa cum laude- definitely a better change but again we are encouraging grades vs. learning. Have we asked the students how they feel about doing away with recognition awards?

  22. The change from “single valedictorian” to summa cum laude is an excellent change, but I would would like to see the Section Awards continued to allow for recognition of other more intangible values, such as classroom participation and leadership.

  23. Dear Bo,
    I always did wonder how you picked just one (or two) because I know how bright these children are and I also have witnessed the difference a “challenging” teacher can make. At the same time, bring on the challenging teachers! Those are the teachers we all still remember and they are the ones that build character and sometimes cost you a fraction of a point. Thanks for explaining the changes more clearly.

  24. I have no problem with the new summa cum laude change however I feel it would be better implemented at the beginning of the year where students can work the entire year towards this goal. To a student who would normally sit at the cusp, this new system might give the extra “push” needed in achieving this distinction. However, with more than half of the school year’s grades already established, this goal may have become unreachable for this student, giving them the feeling of being unsuccessful without having the opportunity to “really” work towards this goal.

    Would it be possible to implement the summa cum laude change effective second semester?

  25. Bo:

    I understand your frustration regarding not leaving comments to the hard work of writing these thoughtful blog posts in which you and many others are trying to communicate your thoughts and ideas regarding education. These blog posts are leaving a historical record of the teaching and learning that is going on and what you as a leader are doing to promote change and progress. Keep up the good work and don’t get discouraged!

    As an avid blog reader and frequent commenter on blogs, I am very dismayed by how FEW people comment on most blogs I read. I do think the Twitter, Blog, Facebook, etc. culture is a “quick in and out” culture. I am concerned that FEW people sit and read, process, and reflect on the blog postings they interact with. This is my opinion.

    The problem I see is that it looks to be more about quantity than quality. Look at Twitter. Seems to me there are lots of people (me included) who tweet profusely and just bombarding the community with tons to stuff. Some sticks and some doesn’t. Maybe that’s OK, but I think that often it sets up a pattern of a more frenetic pace of interaction–breath and no depth.

    You are asking for much more depth. Do people have or will they take the time to share? I just don’t know that we can expect that. I hear you say you are surprised more than frustrated. That’s a pretty healthy emotional response in my book.

    Keep reflecting, writing, and sharing. If nothing else, you are sorting through your own feelings and beliefs. A space to work out your professional framework.

    Best regards,

    Bob Ryshke
    CFT

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