The Tomah School Board could decide by September whether to overhaul the class rank system at Tomah High School.

Board members heard a presentation July 17 from high school principal Robert Joyce on a proposal to no longer designate a valedictorian and salutatorian and create a “laude” system used by most colleges and universities. The proposal was developed by a committee of teachers and administrators that included a recent Tomah salutatorian.

Joyce outlined a system in which courses, depending on the level of difficulty, are assigned bonus points, and the points would be multiplied by a student’s grade-point average. Students would know the bonus points of each course prior to signing up.

Instead of designating the top two students as valedictorian and salutatorian, students would be designated either summa cum laude, magna cum laude or cum laude.

Joyce said a laude system gives students more incentive to challenge themselves academically. He said it would be almost impossible for a student to gain honors without taking advanced courses.

“We want to encourage them to take rigorous courses,” Joyce said.

He said the laude system would have significantly impacted rankings of the recent graduating classes. He said one student would have moved from 39th to ninth under the proposed system, and another would have risen from 27th to fourth.

Only four students in both 2014 and 2015 would have achieved summa cum laude (the highest honors) under the laude system.

Superintendent Cindy Zahrte said the laude system encourages students to work toward an established standard.

“It doesn’t have to be two kids going against each other,” Zahrte said. “It’s, ‘here’s the standard − anybody can achieve it.’”

She said the laude system still rewards students for taking rigorous courses and maintains “the prestige of what an honor is.”

Board member John McMullen said he’s ready to make the change.

“I’m glad we’re moving in this direction,” he said.

“We want to encourage them to take rigorous courses.” Tomah High School principal Robert Joyce
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Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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