November 15, 2017
Dear Parents and Guardians of Tift County High School Students,
Recently, rumors have arisen regarding our graduation ceremony, and I would like to share the facts with you. Graduation is an exciting time for all of our candidates for graduation, and we enjoy celebrating their success by providing a dignified graduation ceremony at which we recognize each graduate individually. Over the years, we have organized our graduation ceremony in various ways. For instance, in 1986 the male graduates wore blue gowns and the female graduates wore white. The female graduates were arranged to form a white “T” surrounded by a sea of blue male graduates. Several years ago, honor and superior honor graduates were separated from the other graduates and arranged alphabetically within each honor group. Later, this arrangement was changed to rank order. This year at our graduation ceremony, we will recognize our valedictorian and salutatorian followed by superior honor graduates in alphabetical order, honor graduates in alphabetical order, and the remaining graduates in alphabetical order. Although we do recognize graduates earning superior honor and honor status separately, each and every graduate is important to us.
Several factors have contributed to the need to arrange honor graduates alphabetically rather than by rank order. First, in order to recognize graduates in rank order at Honors Night and to name the valedictorian and salutatorian by the State’s deadline, class rank was calculated at the end of the third nine weeks. By the end of the fourth nine weeks, class rank changes for a large number of our students depending upon grades earned. The end of the fourth nine weeks usually falls after graduation practice is completed, and graduation is often the next day. The short amount of time between the end of the fourth nine weeks and graduation prohibited changing the order of the honor graduates, so the order of the graduates established for Honors Night remained the same for the graduation ceremony even though the rank order was not correct as of the end of the fourth nine weeks. Many students and parents over the years have questioned the fairness of rank order as a means for determining the line-up for graduation, especially when the order is not based on the final class rank.
Second, Tift County High School graduated its first early graduate last year, and for the first time we faced the dilemma of where to place an early graduate in the line-up. Early graduates are students who began ninth grade with one cohort of students but earned enough credits to satisfy graduation requirements a year early and are graduating with a different cohort of students. Class rank is calculated based upon the grade point averages of members of a student’s ninth grade cohort rather than that of all graduates. An early graduate can have the same class rank as an honor graduate from the senior class since they are members of different cohorts. If two graduates are both ranked the same in their respective cohorts and graduates are arranged in rank order, which graduate goes first? There is no fair answer to this dilemma.
Third, a regulation in place previously specified that superior honor and honor status were to be determined at the end of the third nine weeks for the purposes of recognition at Honors Night and graduation. Students who earned this distinction at the end of the fourth nine weeks were not recognized as honor graduates at the graduation ceremony. This year, this regulation was revised so that students who earn honor or superior honor status at the end of the fourth nine weeks will be recognized at the graduation ceremony. While we felt that this change in the regulation was the best decision for students, a dilemma associated with rank order arose when we needed to make a decision of where to place these students in the graduation line-up. Is it fair to rearrange the rank order of graduates after public recognition at Honors Night? Should students earning honor status fourth nine weeks be placed at the end of the honor line even though their grade point average may be higher than others in front of them? At Tift County High School, we strive to recognize all students for their accomplishments, and we do not want to embarrass students by removing honor status from them once this recognition occurs at Honors Night. Therefore, beginning this year all students earning superior honor or honor status by the third and/or fourth nine weeks will be recognized at graduation as either superior honor or honor graduates.
After thoughtful consideration, administrators, counselors, and curriculum personnel determined that the fairest decision for our superior honor and honor students was to line up students alphabetically rather than by their third nine weeks class rank for recognition at Honors Night and at graduation. As always, the accurate class rank is calculated at the end of the fourth nine weeks and is posted on the student’s final transcript which is sent to the student’s college of choice.