At graduation at Riverside-Brookfield High School the top 10 students in the graduating class are honored with medals. The rankings are determined based on grade- point averages (GPA) after seven semesters of school.

As the names of the top 10 were called in alphabetical order at RB’s recent commencement the honorees came up to the podium to receive their medals. Ten names, 10 students – 10 girls.

For the first time anyone could remember, girls made a clean sweep of the top 10 places in the class. But this year marks the third time in the last four years that girls have dominated the top 10 spots in the class rankings at RB.

“I think that everyone thought it was really funny,” said Claire Chaney who got straight A’s all through high school and finished second in the class with a 4.88 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. “I was really proud of it just because there’s always that stereotype (that) men are the math and sciency ones, but it obviously isn’t true, at least at our school, that boys are smarter.”

RB uses a weighted GPA in which grades in Advanced Placement and honors classes are worth more than the same grade in a regular class.

Chaney, who is headed for Washington University in St. Louis in the fall, wasn’t prepared to claim that girls have superior intelligence.

“I don’t know that you can say they’re necessarily smarter, but I think you can say that they worked harder,” Chaney said. “I feel like, in my AP classes at least, the girls work harder which is why they have the higher GPAs.”

Chaney said that girls in her class seemed more focused academically right from start of high school.

“It all starts from freshman year,” Chaney said. “Just from the start, girls just seem more ambitious, more into their classes, willing to spend more time on homework.”

Chelsea Goldsmith, who finished sixth in the class after eight semesters, agreed.

“In my experience girls mature earlier than boys,” said Goldsmith who will be attending Wesleyan University in Connecticut. “I think that freshman and sophomore year they probably have more of an idea that I want to graduate at the top or at least, you know, I want to keep my 4.0 than boys who, I don’t know, who might have been more in a junior-high mind set where if you get A’s and B’s it’s all fine, you’re still doing well.”

That analysis rings true with Matt Waas, who says that he finished 15th in the class.

“I didn’t care enough about my GPA freshman year,” Waas said. “At least for me, junior and senior years were my strongest, and freshman and sophomore years I didn’t care enough to go from the A-minus to the A or from the B-plus to the A.

“I was, like, whatever. As I got toward this year I was, like, why didn’t I? It wouldn’t be that much more work. Yeah, I guess I didn’t care about it as much back then.”

And at a school where the top students are as accomplished and competitive as they are at RB just a few grades of less than an A can knock you out of the top 10.

Waas said that many boys didn’t work as hard as they could have in school.

“I know a lot of guys who are pretty smart but, I would say, are just too apathetic to try and compete,” Waas said. “I think it’s a bunch of factors. I think it’s a mix of everything, more into athletics and generally don’t want to do as much work I guess.”

Will Lustoff barely missed the top 10 finishing, 11th with a 4.68 GPA after eight semesters. He was in the top 10 after his junior year.

“It would have been nice to get the medal at graduation, but I wasn’t disappointed,” Lustoff said. “I’m happy with how I finished my year. The girls that got it, they were really smart girls. No one was really, like, upset that there wasn’t a guy in it.”

Jordan Messner, who is headed for the University of Michigan, finished fifth in the class. She noticed her gender’s sweep of the top 10.

“I mean, it was kind of peculiar,” Messner said. “It’s strange. It is interesting that it’s all girls. I feel like that we have a really competitive class and that we have a lot of really intelligent and hardworking students. Sometimes I feel like girls might care more about their grades than boys.”

She said she had dreamed of getting a medal since serving as usher at graduation two years ago.

“When I saw people go up and get their medal, I decided that was something that I really wanted, and that I would work tremendously hard for the rest of my high school career in order to achieve that,” Messner said.

The superior academic performance of girls has become something of a trend at RB.

In 2008, 11 medals were awarded because of a tie and girls walked away with nine of them. In 2007, boys captured six of the top 10 medals, but in 2006 girls won eight.

Next year is looking better for the boys, who currently hold four of the top 10 spots in the class of 2010.

In the Lyons Township High School class of 2009, girls claimed six of the top 10 spots, but boys held down three of the top four spots.

The academic dominance of girls at RB this year went beyond grabbing the top 10 spots in the class. Girls outnumbered boys 24 to 11 in the top 10 percent of the class.

RB Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann said the superior academic performance of girls has become a nationwide phenomenon.

“I have thoughts, but it’s a very complex issue,” Baldermann said. “It’s a nationwide trend.”

Baldermann noted that recent statistics show more women than men enrolled in law schools. More females attend college than males and women earn the majority of bachelor’s and master’s degrees, according to national statistics.

“I don’t have any thoughts that can be condensed to a sound bite,” Baldermann said. “I do think it’s a national phenomenon and it’s a concern, but the answer is too involved to reduce it to even a single paragraph. It’s not an accident.”