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'There is no perfect formula'
BHS student discontent over valedictorian selection process
“Band is not an ‘easy A’. My musicians have to work their tails off.”
Tim Garvin, BHS band director
“Honestly, I just want it to be fair.”
Katelyn Andrews, Aztec Warrior editor-in-chief
BARSTOW • For high schoolers, valedictorian is the gold standard of academic honor — the crescendo after four years of steady bustling, hard work and overachievement.
Recently, one Barstow High School student has taken to the student newspaper to call the formula unfair; singling out band students and stirring up a bit of controversy in the process.
Senior Katelyn Andrews, the editor-in-chief of the student-operated Aztec Warrior, is the author of a Jan. 18 opinion piece entitled “BHS Valedictorian Formula: Who is it really benefiting?”
“Honestly, I just want it to be fair,” she said, when asked about why she wrote it.
To completely understand Andrews’ stated qualms, one must understand A-G classes — a major function of BHS’ valedictorian criteria.
A-G classes are high school courses required for entrance into the University of California and the California State University systems. Each letter, A-G, represents one of seven general subject areas.
Approximately 10 years ago, Doug Kruse, head counselor of BHS, jointly authored a still-standing change to the formula, which heavily factored in A-G classes and weighted advanced placement class grades to determine a valedictorian G.P.A. — a shift aimed at combating those “working the system,” he said.
“It’s to reward students who not only have outstanding grades, but have chosen to take a heavy courseload of classes,” Kruse said. “Before the formula, it was possible for a student to take a minimum number of A-G classes with a maximum number of AP classes, where they get a weighted grade, and that student would have an advantage.”
Citing sources and assertions that only band students had won valedictorian since the formula’s inception, band was the only class which awarded A-G credit to repeat students and that band was an ‘easy A’, Andrews theorized that band students were provided an unfair boost toward valedictorian under the new formula.
“The thing that really bugged me is I wasn’t even consulted,” said Tim Garvin, BHS band director, of Andrews’ opinion piece. “Band is not an ‘easy A.’ My musicians have to work their tails off.”
And band isn’t the only elective that provides A-G credit to repeat students, according to Kruse. Students in drama, art and photography can also receive A-G credit for all four years they take it, Kruse said.
Not every elective will earn a student A-G credit all four years. AVID only affords A-G credit to seniors, for example — a process Principal Derrick Delton said the school is only a part of.
Teachers can submit their classes for A-G approval to the school board, he explained. While some are accepted, others are “kicked back” because they need additional work — the point Garvin thought Andrews, instead, should have argued.
During the summer of 2009, a standing valedictorian committee reviewed the formula and found no flaws with it other than it wasn’t clearly being articulated to students, said Teresa Healy, assistant superintendent of education services with the school district.
Since then, the formula has been well-explained to incoming freshmen and throughout their high school careers, she said.
Kruse said he felt Andrews’ frustration, but believes the current formula is in the best interest of the students.
“I think it’s a very fair way to measure,” he said. “Any student has access to band, drama, art and photo.”
Delton and Kruse will meet with the school district after the school year is over to review the selection criteria for valedictorian once more, Delton confirmed.
“Every high school has an issue with their formula,” Delton said. “There is no perfect formula.”
Shea Johnson may be reached at (760) 256-4126 or at SJohnson@DesertDispatch.com.