Hard work may pay off in Mukilteo

MUKILTEO — Kamiak High School senior Erik Taubeneck has never shied away from tough classes.

As a junior, he took three college-level advanced placement classes, including calculus. This year, he has four advanced placement courses, including statistics and physics.

Taubeneck, who has a 3.7 grade point average on a 4.0 scale, probably won’t be in the top 10 percent of his graduating class.

Under a proposal being considered by the Mukilteo School Board, students such as Taubeneck would be rewarded with higher class rankings by earning good grades in tough courses, while those with lighter academic loads but good grades could slip a few notches.

The school board is considering a plan to create a "weighted class rank" beginning with the Class of 2008. A district advisory committee is also recommending Kamiak and Mariner high schools provide an unofficial weighted rank for the classes 2005 through 2007 to give students an immediate incentive.

"Erik is a classic example of someone who would be in the top 10 percent who is not going to get in under the current system," said Rick Robbins, executive director of secondary education for the Mukilteo School District.

The proposal, which has the support of Superintendent Marci Larsen, goes before the school board Monday night.

While Taubeneck would not personally benefit, he fully endorses the idea.

"This is a way to equalize the school across the board," Taubeneck said. "I’m glad to see that students will get the credit they deserve for taking a challenging course and prepare themselves for college."

The weighted class rank would not affect grade point averages. A 4.0 grade point would still be considered perfect grades, but the class rank would use a different formula based on the number of honors and advanced placement classes students take and how they fare in those courses.

"I think it’s a good thing," said Ed Young, Kamiak’s principal. "It gives you a more accurate scale or rating of where kids are."

Robbins said "we are doing this because we think this will impact how students take courses. There are kids who choose not to take honors or AP classes to protect their GPAs."

Kamiak has seen a rise in enrollment in advanced placement classes in recent years. This year, there are 712 students enrolled in those classes, with many students taking more than one advanced course. Last year, there were 643; the year before, 423.

"Many parents are under the misconception that colleges are most concerned about GPA. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong," Robbins said. "What they want to see is, have you taken the most rigorous courses available to you?"

Studies show the rigor of a high school schedule is a predictor of how students will do at the university level, he said.

A mock version of this year’s 480-member senior classes shows most Kamiak students would not move more than four or five spots in their class ranking, although in one case a student would move up 41 places, while another would move down 28, Robbins said.

The biggest difference would be with students in the top 20 percent.

"Those are the students typically selecting honors and AP courses, and those are the kids who typically get reshuffled more," he said.

Tyler Twitchell, a Kamiak senior who is taking five advanced placement classes, questioned the weighted class ranking proposal.

"It doesn’t take into consideration Running Start students," he said, referring to students who take classes at local community colleges while still in high school.

That’s true, Robbins said.

"We don’t control those grades," Robbins said. "Because it’s handled under a different institution altogether, we aren’t going to make any judgments about the difficulty or ease of those courses."

Kristen Almgren, a Kamiak junior with several tough classes, said she likes the idea.

"I think it would be fair because everybody has the opportunity to take honors or AP classes," she said.

Taubeneck, who is a nonvoting student representative on the Mukilteo School Board, surveyed more than 40 students with different class ranks earlier this year.

He asked two questions:

  • "Would you personally like to see the weighted class rank in effect?" Thirty-six of 41 answered yes.

  • "Regardless of personal opinion, do you think it would be overall beneficial to have the weighted class rank in effect?" Thirty-eight of 41 answered yes.

    Reporter Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446 or stevick@heraldnet.com.

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