The Eden Prairie School Board approved the administration’s proposal at its Dec. 12 meeting to reinstate a popular academic graduation honor that had been removed this summer.
Board members voted 7-0 to approve the Superintendent Consent Agenda, which included a proposed student handbook change reinstating the availability of red academic recognition cords for the graduating class of 2023. There was no discussion.
In the past, graduating students who had a 3.5-grade point average (GPA) and above and had earned at least six credits in certain designated advanced courses by the end of the third quarter of senior year were awarded a red cord to wear over their graduation gown and an “Honors Diploma” designation.
The administration had removed the honor this summer, saying that the red cords had been designed to motivate students to take more advanced classes, but were no longer necessary since 71% of students were now taking at least one advanced class. Gold cords to recognize a GPA of 3.9 or higher and silver cords for 3.75-3.89 were kept, and these recipients would earn an “Honors” diploma sticker.
However, there was an outcry from students and families who protested the decision to remove the red cords. Parents said the school had encouraged their students to work hard for over three years with the specific motivation of earning a red cord, and that students had rightfully earned them.
In a Dec. 8 message addressed to EP Schools Superintendent Josh Swanson, which was made public in the board meeting materials on Dec. 12, EPHS Principal Nate Gibbs explained that he wanted to reinstate the honor for the current seniors only. To reflect this, he recommended changes to pages 6 and 7 of the 2022-23 EPHS student handbook.
Gibbs’ message said, “This recommendation is being made after speaking with students, staff, and families. I have learned that Red Cords have been an important tradition that our students have come to deeply value over the years.
“I have also learned that many students committed to an accelerated academic pathway with the hopes and expectation of being formally recognized with a red cord during graduation,” he continued. “In addition — a significant amount of our students have advocated that EPHS revisit the cords policy through our Eagle Voice process.
“With those factors in mind, I am proposing that we adjust our graduation cords policy for the 2022-23 school year and enter a process at EPHS to evolve and align future practices of graduation recognition with our mission and academic vision, while including the voices of our students, staff, and families over the coming months.”
The new language is below. (Please note that although the School Board approved this change, an unintended error resulted in the phrase “6 or more courses” being used instead of “6 or more credits.”)
“Red cords will be awarded to the class of 2023 students if they have completed 6 or more courses with a GPA average of 3.5 or above in the following course domains: CIS, AP, PSEO, Dual Enrollment College Courses. Designation of gold, and silver, red cords will be determined at the end of term 3. Students receiving academic recognition as noted above will be Honors Graduates, receiving an Honors sticker on their diploma.”
After the board voted to approve the handbook change on Monday night, EP Schools Associate Superintendent Carlondrea Hines confirmed to EPLN that students will not need six or more advanced courses to earn a red cord, but rather six or more credits in designated advanced courses. Students earn one credit per quarter, so they could conceivably earn one, two, or three credits per advanced class.
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