More than One - Recognizing Academic Achievement
At TAISM, our goal is to “pursue academic excellence for students in the international community….” and to “develop ethical, responsible, and globally conscious lifelong learners.” In an effort to promote this, we recognize and award academic achievement. Like many high schools, we use grades or grade point averages (GPA) as one of our measures.
The TAISM Honor Roll has three tiers. Students earning a GPA of 3.3 or higher achieve Honors, students with a 3.7 GPA or higher achieve High Honors, and students with a 4.0 or higher achieve Highest Honors. Achieving highest honors is impressive: it means that a student has a significant number of A’s or A+’s. He or she may have taken AP courses that are weighted differently because of their challenging nature. In the past few years, our highest achievers have had GPA’s of 4.2 or higher.
Traditionally high schools have also ranked students and recognized the academic excellence of a single highest achieving student of a class, the valedictorian. TAISM has recognized a class valedictorian each year since its first graduating class in 2001. TAISM does not rank students beyond the highest GPA because of the transitory nature of our student population and because of the faulty suppositions that come with a ranking system. The notion that there could be someone in last place does not sit well with educators who attempt to encourage potential, not stifle ambition.
Recently however, we have been reconsidering the value/merit of selecting a single highest earning student. Finding the top student often necessitates calculating GPAs to the hundredths’ decimal place. Distinguishing merit to the hundredths’ place can feel like a fool’s errand - is there really a difference between students at these levels? We also feel that the achievement of Highest Honors merits its own distinction - much like the summa cum laude graduates at universities. Unintended outcomes of designating a single valedictorian include the creation of unhealthy competition. In an age where we value and foster collaboration, students may be less inclined to work with others if it means helping a competitor and lowering their own chances.
After much research and deliberation, this year TAISM has decided to recognize this highest GPA group at the Academic Awards Ceremony and one of this group will be selected by the faculty to address the graduating seniors and the guests at the Graduation ceremony.
Whatever measure is used, the acknowledgement of high academic achievement sends an important message, one which should not be reserved for only one among many who deserve it. This change will make a positive difference as all students who have worked with distinction will be recognized. We look forward to applauding their efforts at the end of this school year.
Keith Boniface, HS Principal