Needed changes to graduation

LSHS should broaden student recognition in order to reflect all four A’s – academics, arts, athletics and activities


Addison Delgado

Everett, WA – June 7, 2022: The Class of 2022 gather at Angel of the Winds Arena for their graduation ceremony. 592 seniors were awarded their high school diploma this year, including 16 students who maintained a 4.0 cumulative GPA.

At Lake Stevens High School, we work to celebrate academics, arts, athletics, and activities – the four A’s. We celebrate academics at our awards nights, athletics via our state send-offs, records and sometimes assemblies, activities through competition results and arts by awards and displays. At graduation, only academic honors are celebrated. As a school, we push for all four A’s, and it is our responsibility to display this appreciation at graduation as well.

At graduation, the top ten or so students in the Senior Class receive a white stole, and honor cords are worn by students who earned a cumulative GPA of 3.5 and higher. Although the recognition seems adequate, the validity of the Top 10 comes into question. The top ten students are awarded based on their class rank using an unweighted GPA rather than a weighted GPA. Their cumulative GPAs are evaluated regardless of whether or not the student took AP or college-level courses.  

Based on the differences between the weighted and unweighted GPAs, weighted GPAs make more sense when evaluating a student’s academic performance. As a school that pushes for relentlessness, we should be evaluating a student’s GPA based on that determination and hard work as well. A weighted GPA communicates the sheer rigor and level of difficulty of classes, which is more equitable.

Reference for a weighted GPA scale. A weighted GPA means AP and college level classes are evaluated with a different GPA scale. LSHS would only use college prep and AP/dual credit classes. (Department of Education – South Carolina )

Lake Stevens High School chooses not to use a weighted GPA because college admissions already look at a student’s AP and college-level classes along with test scores, extracurriculars and awards using a holistic process. Although all of this is true, students who don’t take more rigorous classes should not be ranked higher than those who challenge themselves academically. If Lake Stevens High School were to use a weighted GPA, student work ethic, determination and perseverance would be taken into account when being recognized at graduation. 

Many have concerns that using a weighted scale would change the rankings of the top ten to a valedictorian and salutatorian model, but that is not the case. We can still honor the top ten; it would simply be based on their weighted GPA. If we are ranking students based on their GPAs, it is critical that the student’s academic load be incorporated into the evaluating process.

Universities and colleges often use color-coded cords in order to separate students, which LSHS could take into consideration when choosing to recognize more students for their achievements. 

Athletics, as well as academics, are very important to some students, and celebrating the achievements of these athletes is vital at graduation.

Throughout the school year, athletes are awarded varsity letters in each sport. These student-athletes are recognized during each individual sports team ceremony, but not in many other ways, regarding the acknowledgment of the rest of the school.

Graduation does not recognize these student-athletes in the same way as academics.  Implementing a cord system for varsity athletes is one proposed idea to allow students to “show off” their athletic accomplishments.

Alongside academics, arts, and athletics, our activities are some of the biggest parts of our school. The activities of our school help build the foundation of our different communities through clubs like Interact, International Club, LINK, GSA, BSU, DSU, ASU, Video Game Club, Dead Poets Society, and many more.

Some of these clubs allow students to compete against different schools. For instance, the club V-bots allows students to build robots, code them and complete a certain task in the shortest amount of time. The top schools also compete in state tournaments and competitions, like FCCLA, DECA, and Video Game Club as well.

These students put so much time and effort into their work and it shouldn’t be glossed over. Students who excel in competitive clubs should be awarded cords to wear at graduation as well.

Arts, perhaps the most diverse and broad category of the 4 A’s at LSHS, includes music, theater/drama, paintings, drawing, sculpting, photography, and the list goes on. However, at graduation, students of these programs are not recognized.

Art is an important part of many student lives on campus, and failure to acknowledge these students at graduation downplays their accomplishments and excellence.

Art cords could be awarded to students who have won awards, or otherwise been recognized for their achievements in art.  Teachers could also nominate students to receive honors for graduation, much like how teachers nominate students to win semester awards throughout the year. Art is as important of an aspect as any of the other A’s and deserves to be recognized. 

We as a school preach the idea of recognizing students with all different interests but fail to do so at graduation. It is crucial that students who have put their time, effort and heart into excelling in their areas of interest be recognized at graduation. Going forward, we as a school need to work together and recognize more students at graduation.