Scholar rank points worth more than Valedictorian

Cole Hook

Frosh. John Smith walked out of the North Gymnasium with a dazed look on his face. He had just sat through all of the Freshman Orientation assembly. His mother had accompanied him on this trip, as she always did with school activities. She had high hopes for him… valedictorian hopes. Smith smiled in satisfaction; he already figured out what he had to do to become Valedictorian. It was quite simple really. He didn’t have to be the smartest or most promising student at WO. He didn’t have to have the best work ethic. All he needed was all A’s, no matter how easy his classes were. Taking no AP or IB classes would give him the easiest road to a 4.0.

  While achieving a 4.0 isn’t necessarily an easy feat, theoretically, one could take easy classes and be honored as the valedictorian of our school. He/she would be ranked 1st of 500+ students, higher than a student in 3 AP classes with one A-.

  I’m going to describe to you two students. Think about which one deserves to be valedictorian more in your mind.

  Student A has a 24 ACT score. Student A does only enough work to get all A’ in his classes. Student A has never taken an AP or IB class. Student A only takes classes that are required and lots of senior classes/electives. Student A has a 4.0 weighted and unweighted.

  Student B is a national merit finalist and got a 33 on her ACT. Student B works hard to get all A’s in her classes, but it disappointed when she doesn’t end with 100% in a class. Student B has taken AP classes throughout high school. For each one, Student B got a 5 on the AP test for the subject. Student B got one A- in AP Chemistry her Senior year. Student B has a 3.99 unweighted GPA and a 4.4 weighted GPA.

  The answer seems simple, doesn’t it? Student B has been pushed harder academically and if only one of the students could be valedictorian, Student B deserves it more.

  Unfortunately for Student B, she would have to settle for salutatorian; however, there is hope for people in a situation similar to Student B.

  Here at West Ottawa, a “Top Scholar” is named as the top student in each graduating class. This student gives the traditional valedictorian’s speech as the best student of his/her class at graduation. For those who have been at WO for some time, the Top Scholar is always named during convocation. Each time this award is given, Principal Todd Tulgestke proudly announces the amount of scholar rank points the Top Scholar has. Now, for me, this is the only time I hear of such points during the year. I genuinely clap along with my peers as I’m sure they are thinking the same thing I am: I don’t know how he got those points but good for him. So, upon inquiring about how Scholar rank points are determined, Tulgestke shared the formula, available for your viewing at the end of this article.

  Tulgestke explained the reason behind the Scholar Rank system and how it is determined, “We have two systems set up to recognize students for academic achievement. We have the traditional valedictorian, like most schools do, where we recognize students who have maintained a 4.0 for their entire 4 years. We also recognize students who maintain a 3.99 GPA, which is our salutatorians over 4 years. But, more importantly, we have the scholar rank model. We created this 5 or 6 years ago to recognize students who are taking more AP classes, IB classes, and dual enrollment classes. We wanted to award and reward those students for their effort in advanced level course work. And, we think it’s more important to take an AP class, even if you get a B+ in the AP class, or an IB class, or a dual enrollment class than it is to maintain your 4.0 GPA. So we have our scholar rank model which takes into account your GPA, your honors points – you get one point for every class you take which is an AP class, an IB class, or a dual enrollment class – and it also takes into account your ACT score. All of those things, your GPA, your honors points, and your ACT score are factored into a formula. They are each weighted within that formula. And then we have a multiplier, and mathematically we calculate how many scholar rank points each senior earns over their 4 years. Each student who earns 750 or more out of 1000 total possible points, those students are our scholar rank medallion winners.” The Top Scholar of each class is the student who has the most scholar rank points total.

  For those students that are bummed because they do not have a 4.0, listen up. Not only does Tulgestke consider the Scholar Rank medallion more valuable than being named a Valedictorian, but the Top Scholar of each class has not always been a 4.0 student. This is shocking and hope-inspiring, as I always assumed the Top Scholar was the valedictorian with the most Scholar Rank Points. This is not the case. It is entirely possible to have one or multiple A-’s and still be named the Top Scholar of your class.

   The new Scholar Rank Model provides a better assessment of students’ academic achievement than the traditional Valedictorian and Salutatorian awards. Schools around West Michigan and the world should adopt the Scholar Rank Model and cease to live in the past.


  To calculate your Scholar rank points, see the formula and examples below. Tulgestke hopes to include this in the West Ottawa Student handbook in the future.


  The purpose of the WOHS Scholar Ranking model is to encourage students to take the most challenging curriculum that will help prepare them to be successful in college and careers and to recognize West Ottawa High School’s top scholar(s) for graduation.


Scholar Rank = 30% ACT Score, 50% GPA, 20% Honors Points .


The mechanism to calculate class standing is based on a 1000-pt system.  A score of 1000 points is perfect.  Weighting factors are calculated so that all the components add to 1000 points. Factors are calculated as follows:


  • 36 is the perfect ACT score: 300/36 = 8.33 ACT factor
  • 36 Honor points are possible.
  • AP, IB and dual enrollment semesters completed through the fall semester of the senior year. Each semester of AP, IB, or Dual Enrollment = 1 pt.  200/36 = 5.556 Honor Point factor
  • GPA perfect score is 4.0:  500/4.0 = 125 GPA factor


For example, here is a comparison of three students.


Student 1 GPA 3.88 x 125 = 485
Honors 8X 5.556= 44.448
ACT 33 X 8.33= 274.89
804.338 rank 1
Student 2 GPA 3.91 x 125 = 488.75
Honors 11x 5.556= 61.116
ACT 28 x 8.33= 233.24
783.106 rank 2
Student 3 GPA 3.51 x 125= 438.75
Honors 13x 5.556= 72.228
ACT 30 x 8.33= 249.9
760.878 rank 3