School Committee Weighs JGMS Honor Roll, ‘Tenacity List’

June 5, 2024
Photo Credit: Robert Dorer

The principal and School Council of the John Glenn Middle School recommended restoring quarterly student recognition through an academic honor roll plus a pilot “tenacity list” to applaud effort and improvement.

Principal Jonathan Hartunian presented the proposal, and the process that led to the new approach, at last week’s meeting of the Bedford School Committee. The committee is expected to decide on whether to implement the plan at its June 10 session.

The two lists represent “different pathways to be recognized,” Hartunian explained, adding that students could be eligible for both. 

“We have a responsibility to design a system that would be accessible and serve as a motivator,” he said.

Based on response to polling, the scholastic threshold for the honor roll would be 90 in every subject. Some School Committee members thought a 90 average would accomplish the same goal.

The criteria for the new honor would be a minimum of a one-point improvement in one subject while maintaining grades in all the others, with a minimum grade-point average of 70. 

Hartunian, who began his administration in the summer of 2021, related that the JGMS honor roll was discontinued in 2020. After receiving requests last fall to restore the practice, “We wanted to have a deeper conversation about its purpose – and whether we can achieve a similar purpose in other ways.”

The principal assembled a task force that included representatives of the School Council, Parents Association, teachers, and students, as well as himself. The group launched a survey of parents and students in the fall of 2022, followed by deliberations, to develop student recognition criteria. 

Hartunian said two-thirds of students and parents responded to an initial survey, and the results were in support of restoring the honor roll: 58 percent of students and 67 percent of parents. The percentages opposed were low; more were neutral.

More specifically, the survey asked what represents student achievement that warrants recognition. More than half of students approved of the original minimum: at least a B minus in every subject. 

That means in the winter of 2022, 71 percent of students in the school would have qualified for the honor roll, said Hartunian. “If so, many people are on the honor roll, we can clearly identify the 29 percent who are not,” he said, adding that to some, the honor may seem more like “a participation trophy.

“It was agreed we should honor not just academic achievement, but significant academic achievement,” the principal said, with the baseline at a grade point no lower than 90. But he added that in their survey comments, “many students mentioned effort, hard work, trying hard. We concluded, as educators, that we have a responsibility to recognize growth and improvement students show.”

After a member commented that a grade below 90 in a minor subject could preclude honor roll recognition, Hartunian said, “Every class is important. That’s a big deal to the teachers. Every subject that is taught is critical to our students’ success. The bar should be set high.”

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