More details about the Honor Society review

Published 9:29 am Thursday, October 29, 2015

No. 2 Pencil by Kathy Niebuhr

The National Honor Society at Albert Lea High School serves as an affiliate of the national office of NHS. As such, it must conform to the NHS Constitution and information provided in the NHS handbook. ALHS staff’s recent decision to limit membership via a quota on eligible members was found to be at odds with the national office. Through a parent concern, the practice, which was to be initiated this year, was put on hold pending a review of ALHS processes in comparison to the national office expectations. I had the privilege to conduct that review and as a result would like to briefly present the investigation findings as well as clarify my understanding of the national office expectations for all chapters.

Kathy Niebuhr

Kathy Niebuhr

Eligibility for selection: At ALHS, students with a minimum 3.5 weighted GPA will be invited to be considered for selection into the NHS. Once a student receives an invitation that they have met that eligibility criteria, the scholarship criteria has been met. We now know that chapters who wish to limit membership may do so by increasing the GPA or include any additional coursework before students are selected and not with a quota instituted afterwards. Indeed, several surrounding districts have raised their GPA. In the evaluation of the students’ packet, any “revisiting of scholarship” via a rubric on awarding students points for a higher GPA than 3.5 or for additional coursework cannot happen. This year we initially awarded points for levels of scholarship, which was corrected in our review. All applicants were awarded an equal amount of points after review of all eligible students. Scholarship was then not considered any further in the scoring rubric or in other pieces of candidate paperwork, according to the NHS handbook guidance.

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Blind review of candidates:  Once the students were screened on GPA, NHS recommends names are associated with their candidate forms. NHS indicates that because students list leadership or extracurricular activities, they may become known by virtue of a public position such as captain of a sports squad or president of the student council; whereas, other leadership work may not be as public, such as work with the humane society or leading a church group. We know that a blind review of candidates is truly not blind, especially in a community of our size. We know that a blind review does not allow our faculty council to fully discuss the merits of each student’s leadership, character and service, and allow for extenuating circumstances — a discussion that then needs to result in a majority vote.

After a student meets the scholarship criteria, they are asked to provide information on leadership, service and character via a student packet as well as recommendation forms. NHS recommends it may be advantageous to attach a scoring of these items. At ALHS, students were awarded a minimum of 25 points to be automatically accepted into NHS. This was reviewed and NHS reminds us that no student is automatically selected by virtue of points. Points are acceptable but each students’ information must now be deliberated upon by the five-member faculty council and receive a majority vote to be recommended for induction. At ALHS, student packets were all re-reviewed, points recounted and candidates voted on by the faculty council.

Upon completing a vote on each member, the list with selected and nonselected members is sent to the building principal for final review. The building principal may concur or reject any of the recommended candidates, based on information he or she has available per the NHS Constitution.  Once the principal finalizes the list, it is sent to the adviser. The principal and adviser notify the members of their selection and invite them to the induction ceremony. Students not selected are notified and receive feedback for potential improvement in the areas of leadership, service and character per the national office recommendations.

This investigation was done with great concern for our students as well as staff at ALHS. We apologize for any undue conflict that may have resulted. In addition to a high GPA, students invited to join NHS must also have an outstanding leadership, service and character record.

Students at ALHS deserve the best process we can devise that will make selection indeed an honor. Students who seek only academic honors are recognized with honor rolls, academic lettering and graduation honors. NHS is a recognition of academic scholarship in addition to leadership, service and character. NHS is a “privilege bestowed upon students by the faculty of the school and not considered a right inherent to any student.” We have all learned through this review ways and opportunities to uphold that recognition as we move forward.

The final review has been submitted to the superintendent as well as the national office of NHS. The NHS response to our review was, “Your report is exceptionally detailed and I appreciate the thorough review of NHS policies. The immediate and future actions are exactly what our office would have required.”


Kathy Niebuhr is the director of secondary programs for Albert Lea Area Schools.