“I can’t be valedictorian:” Family says changes to MPS grading scale puts music students at disadvantage

MILWAUKEE -- She's the smartest girl in her class -- but there's a fear she won't be named valedictorian when she graduates. A Milwaukee family is upset over a new grading scale at Milwaukee Public Schools -- a scale they say unfairly targets students in music classes.

Rufus King High School

Rufus King High School

At Rufus King High School, the dream of one of its most talented students is in jeopardy.

"They're telling me I can't be valedictorian. I can't because I decide to participate in music class," said Celeste Beals, a junior at Rufus King High School.

Beals' Grade Point Average

16-year-old Beals keeps busy at school -- playing five instruments, being in three honors societies, taking part in countless extracurricular activities -- all while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.

"She's been in music since the third grade," said Shani Scruggs, Beals' mother.

Music class is what Beals says is keeping her from maintaining her perfect GPA under new MPS guidelines.

"Right now, they are looking to change the high school grading scale to a 5.0 grading scale," said Scruggs.

Celeste Beals

Celeste Beals

Beals says music classes are not weighted the same as the others, which means the highest GPA she could get with a 5.0 scale is only 4.5.

"Some of us are being greatly affected by a decision we weren't even informed on," said Beals.

A spokeswoman for Milwaukee Public Schools sent FOX6 a written statement:

"The leadership at Milwaukee Public Schools are committed to the arts, including music. We understand and appreciate the importance of the arts in a well-rounded education and in a child’s overall development. MPS devotes significant resources to arts education across the district and specifically at Rufus King International High School.

The letter in question is incomplete and incorrect. Students at Rufus King have an option to participate in music and preserve their grade point average. They can choose to take music classes on a pass/fail basis so that the grade does not affect their GPA, but their participation and credits in the course will be recorded on their transcript.

This change in the grading system for weighted courses took place during the 2014-15 school year, when the current juniors were freshmen. We shared this information with students, parents and staff at that time so that students affected by the change had two years to plan ahead."

With Beals already well into her junior year, she fears it may be too late now to pursue her goal of becoming a neuroscientist.

Celeste Beals

Celeste Beals

"We need scholarships and that becomes a big deal," said Beals. "I've been working so hard!"

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  • Opinion8d

    First off – being Valedictorian isn’t the make it or break it of high school. If this girl is truly an ‘A’ student (with the actual intellect to back it up) she will have no problem is pursing her dreams -whatever they are. It seems like the ‘victim mentality’ is coming out already -sadly!!! If she truly wants to be a ‘neuroscientist’, nothing is stopping her except herself. The bigger picture here is that MPS (along with many schools now) is coddling kids to think they are doing well in school when in fact they are simply average (not saying this is the case with this girl -SAT/ACT will determine that!) I’m guessing there is enough blame to go around, but in the end, the lax policies of MPS (democrats wanting to rig statistics instead of telling the truth) are causing bigger problems in society.

    • Always Outspoken

      Being (or NOT being) elected valedictorian (or a drop from a “perfect” GPA) will affect her eligibility for grants and scholarships – which can most certainly affect her ability to go as far in college as she hopes. That being said, it sounds to me as if she had a choice – and she CHOSE to retain the music class rather than drop it and substitute a “more heavily weighted” course.

      I question why MPS feels the need to change their grading system, though, because I too suspect that they will exploit any opportunity to pad their stats – even if it is detrimental to the students. Is this new grading scale a trend that other schools are also adopting, or is it something cooked up by MTEA?

  • Who wrote this story? Someone isn't telling the whole truth..

    Since this is her Junior year (’16-’17), then according to the letter she has been in the 5.0 grading system her entire tenure at this school. Therefore she is now upset about the choices she and her parents made and they want someone to fix it for them. Life sucks, get a helmet. In life you make choices and you must accept responsibility for those choices. That is part of the problem with Milwaukee inner-city culture… they accept responsibility for nothing and want everyone else to fix their life and mistakes for them. Own it and move forward.

  • Jan Vonhoff

    I’m disgusted to read some of the comments. Here we have an example of a shining star coming from Milwaukee, a role model for what is possible if you have drive, ambition and passion and you lecture her about “victim mentality”? Of course she can become a neuroscientist without the title of Valedictorian but it will be a harder road without the scholarship money that comes with the title. Yes, if she was given fair warning, her guidance counselors and parents should have encouraged her to play whatever “game” the school system made up. The bigger question is who gets to make the decision about how much “weight” a subject area holds and what is the criteria for that decision? I bet a foreign language course holds weight and yet most people never use that knowledge once they leave school. I also bet that some of the students in that highly weighted calculus class couldn’t even name all the instruments this girl plays much less read music nor could they run a mile in that unweighted Phy Ed class. Good luck to you, young lady. You will go far.

  • Z

    Typical victim mentality from the precious snowflake generation.

    Just wait until reality really sets in, when she has a worthless education in music and is pushing papers as a secretary.

    Keep thinking that playing a clarinet will get you through life. It’s a nice HOBBY but it won’t pay your bills dummy.