Goshen News, Goshen, IN

March 16, 2013

Fairfield dropping valedictorian designation

By BRIDGET FRYMAN
CORRESPONDENT

BENTON — It won’t just be Fairfield’s top two students recognized when this year’s freshman walk across the stage as seniors at graduation.

The school board is set to approve changes to the Fairfield Junior-Senior High School handbook on March 28, which will include adding Top 10 Academic All Stars for the class of 2016.

“We feel it is the best way to recognize students who achieve,” Principal Ben Tonagel told the board members at their meeting Thursday. “We want to encourage students to not play the GPA game, and now they do.”

Fairfield will use the Indiana Academic All-Star program, which is sponsored by the Indianapolis Star and the Indiana Association of School Principals and used statewide. The program uses a mathematical formula that combines SAT or ACT scores with the GPA. There will be no distinction between A plus, A, or A minus — all are worth four points.

Tonagel said administrators have been examining the issue for almost four years, and considered a number of possibilities before settling on this method because it will benefit students the most.

“I think they will prepare more for the standardized tests because you get the competition aspect,” Tonagel said. “I like that they will prepare more.”

If a student takes the SAT or ACT more than once, the formula will use the test that produced the highest score will be used.

“I like that we are getting away from an ‘easy senior year,’” board member Marilee Keim said. “I don’t know how many times I heard that.”

Tonagel agreed that going to a Top 10 will help students look at their senior year as a way to prepare for the next level.

Administrators decided to start it with this year’s freshman class because it is the first year that a number of graduation requirements go into effect, including a fourth year of math. This is also the first group of students who were eligible to take Algebra as seventh graders, which will be counted on their high school transcript.

Many people are not familiar with the Academic All-Star program, so Tonagel said one hurdle will be getting the word out. The information will be in the 2013-14 handbook even though it does not go into effect right away.

He is unsure what students’ reactions will be, but is confident that even though the students will have almost a year of high school under their belts before they learn of the change, it will benefit them.

“I think they will very much appreciate that test scores will be part of the process,” Tonagel said.

In other business, Tonagel told the board three Fairfield seniors made the NECC All-Academic team: Kaela Miller, Zach Hochstedler and Sophia Brown.

The board also approved a 5 cent increase to school lunches for the 2013-14 school year, which will bring the elementary price to $1.55, the junior-senior high school price to $1.75 and the adult price to $2.40. This is a result of new requirements from the USDA.