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Don't Leave School Without It

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To recognize high-achieving students, school officials in Newark, N.J.--adapting a status symbol that denotes good credit, if not good spending habits--will award them "gold cards."

Bearers of the card will be entitled to attend all school-related functions--such as dances and athletic competitions--free of charge. Letters praising their academic performance will be sent to their parents. And local merchants are being asked to offer them discounts on purchases.

Last week, 417 of the district's 13,000 secondary-school students were to receive the first gold cards, said Ronald Frye, assistant executive superintendent for secondary programs.

To receive a card, a student must maintain a B average or better, he said. Students qualify at the end of each of the district's six marking periods.

"We're trying to remove the stigma of students being honor students," Mr. Frye said. "Many of the students feel it's not cool being smart. They don't want to be seen carrying books. They don't want to be identified as honor students. We're thinking that many of the students will see the benefits that others are getting by maintaining high academic grade-point averages and they'll want to join the ranks."

The concept, Mr. Frye noted, has succeeded before.

At Science High School in Newark, he explained, officials issued "honors passes" to those students who maintained a high average. "They found more students in the C-plus range trying to bring their grade-point averages up so they would be issued the honors pass," Mr. Frye said.

"The major hope," he added, "is that we, too, at the district level will reach into that band of students near the honor level and make them come up."

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