by Ellin Walsh


Cuyahoga Falls -- A new formula will be used to determine the top two students in the Falls High graduating class of 2008. Beginning with this year's seniors, computation of the cumulative grade point average will include eight semesters of course work completed beginning with the fall semester of the ninth grade and concluding at the end of the spring semester of the 12th grade. For years, Falls High has based the valedictorian/salutatorian awards on the cumulative averages of students after seven semesters.

This means that the last semester of senior year hadn't counted in the calculation, according to Assistant Superintendent Walter C. Davis. As such, Davis said, by late January educators would know who the valedictorian and salutatorian were going to be. The seven semester policy proved helpful to students as they applied for college scholarships, Davis said; the possible disadvantage, he said, was the chance that a student could earn the award based on seven semesters and then have his or her GPA drop slightly during the eighth semester.

"Most of the time," Davis reported, "the top two students after seven semesters are the same students who remain at the top of the class even after the eighth semester. As a matter of fact," Davis added, "no one can recall an instance when this wasn't the case." That is, until this year, Davis said.

"For the first time in memory," Davis said, "we have a group of students in the top 10 whose GPAs are so closely packed that there is a significant possibility that the top two students after seven semesters will not be the same top two students after eight semesters."

According to Superintendent Dr. Edwin S. Holland, the high school administration and guidance department met with the top 25 students at Falls High a couple months ago to outline the change. Each year the chairs of various high school departments and principals meet with Davis to review policies and revise the high school program of studies.

"The GPAs of this year's seniors are closely bunched and we knew this," Davis said, "because we review the data regularly."

The valedictorian will be the graduating senior with the highest cumulative grade point average. The salutatorian will be the graduating senior with the second highest cumulative grade point average.

"We believe this selection process is much fairer and more accurate," Holland said, "because it is the resulting GPA of the entire high school academic experience of eight semesters instead of seven semesters as in the past."

Holland said the Board does not have to approve the process for selecting the valedictorian and salutatorian, but noted it endorsed the change when it approved the high school's program of studies at a meeting earlier in December.