New system would weigh several factors of performance

By Alex Johnson


Principal Eric Burling and teacher Jim Dennert of Burlington High School gave a presentation to the Burlington Area School District Curriculum Committee Monday about the possibility of switching from a class rank system to a laude-point system.

Currently, every student in a graduating class is placed within a numbered list based on cumulative grade point average.

A laude system abolishes the rankings, instead assigning “laude points” for every class that Burlington High School offers.

Students would then be placed into three separate categories: Summa Cum Laude-Highest Honor, Magna Cum Laude-Great Honor, and Cum Laude-Honor.

“We feel the laude system is something that would work well…the purpose is for us to recognize the rigor of their academic program, as well as their success in that program,” Burling said.

The laude system is being explored by Burling and a committee of staff members at BHS, who are looking for a system that better reflects student performance than the current class rank system.

The overall score would be calculated by multiplying the student’s cumulative grade point average by the number of laude points earned per class, with Summa Cum Laude requiring 88 or more points with an ACT score of 26 or higher, Magna Cum Laude requiring 56 or more points, and Cum Laude requiring 19 or more points.

During their presentation, Burling and Dennert shared that the current system causes students to avoid “challenging classes that may be of interest, but are not weighted” as students take a multitude of Advanced Placement courses to achieve the highest grade point average.

The current class rank system also garners “excessive competition with classmates” and an “unwillingness” of students “to take academic and intellectual risks,” according to Burling.

By offering points with every class, students would be encouraged to choose classes that didn’t offer a weighted grade point average advantage, instead allowing them to choose from a variety of subjects and interests.

Burling also said that a laude system might help students in college admissions, because a college would be forced to look at a more complete view of the students, rather than just a listed number.

School Board member echoed Burling’s comments saying that college admissions are looking for that “well-rounded” student, and that grade point average and class rank are “low” on their lists.

If Burlington High School decides to switch to the laude system, it would be joining about 27 other schools in Wisconsin who have abandoned the class rank system.

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 55 percent of schools nationally do not utilize or implement class rank, opting for systems like laude.

“We’re trying to get kids not just to go to four-year schools, two-year schools,” said Dennert, Science Department chairman at BHS. “(To) be prepared for the trades, be prepared for the military … we want the kids to have as much background and variety as possible.”

The next step for Burling and his committee is to run the program by the BHS student government.

If the laude program were implemented, the first students to utilize the new program would be the class of 2020.