- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 11, 2014

ELLETTSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - High school students prepare for graduation long before commencement arrives, and the race to be at the top of the class can be competitive. Edgewood High School graduate Cierra Beyers feels she never had a chance to win that race, even though she had a solid head start.

Beyers walked with the Class of 2014 at the Edgewood commencement ceremony last Saturday, but unlike her peers, she earned all the credits needed to graduate in just three years instead of four. It was the first time an Edgewood grad had finished in three years, and Edgewood Principal Dirk Ackerman acknowledged Beyers’ achievement during the graduation ceremony.

But while Beyers was able to don a cap and gown to participate in commencement, she wasn’t eligible to be ranked in the top 10 of her class, because she hasn’t been at the high school for eight semesters.

“I feel like I wasn’t treated very fairly when it came to that,” Beyers told The Herald-Times (https://bit.ly/1xIVvdU ).

Students in the top 10 at Edgewood have their picture taken, and the pictures are hung on the school’s walls. On honors night, they are acknowledged as among top 10 seniors in academic performance. Even with a 4.05 grade point average and earning an Academic Honors Diploma, Beyers couldn’t be counted among the top 10.

According to Ackerman, the school’s policy is to only include students in the top 10 who have been in high school for eight semesters. Graduating in less than four years also rules out the honor of being valedictorian or salutatorian.

While Beyers earned 43 credits - enough to graduate early - after taking honors geometry and biology in the eighth grade instead of as a freshman, those who take classes for four years generally finish with around 55 credits. Ackerman pointed out those students have managed to retain a high GPA through more classes over a longer period of time.

“I am so happy for her. She’s an awesome student,” he said. At the same time, “ranking is based on having all the semesters.”

Bloomington High School North and Bloomington South don’t maintain a top 10 list or honor those students in a special way.

Although it’s too late for Beyers, she would like to see the way Edgewood determines top 10 rankings change for future students who may graduate in three years.

“I’d like to see a policy implemented so if anyone decides to do this after me, hopefully their years of high school will be smoother than mine were,” she said.

It isn’t only that she wasn’t considered in the top 10. She feels she often fell through the cracks. In some cases, she wasn’t informed about available scholarships like everyone else, because she was counted among juniors instead of seniors.

“A lot of seniors have received applications before I even knew about them, because the guidance counselors would forget I was graduating,” Beyers said. “I had to ask the guidance counselor to put me on the senior email list three times before I started getting senior emails.”

Although Beyers was crunched for time to get some of her scholarship applications in, she was awarded one no other Edgewood senior could receive: the $4,000 Mitch Daniels Early Graduation Scholarship.

One problem all Indiana school districts must deal with is that every early graduate reduces the district’s funding by several thousand dollars for that missing school year. State support is based on daily student population, and skipping a fourth year takes a year of support away.

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Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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