Where Have All the Valedictorians Gone?

From time immemorial one student from each class of high school graduates could boast of the highest grade-point average, claim the title of valedictorian and was ranked number one in their graduating class.  That tradition is fading fast.  According to the National Association of Secondary School Principals, half of high schools today no longer administer class rankings based on GPA’s.  One high school in Tennessee awarded 48 students with the title of valedictorian so as not to offend those that tried awfully gosh-darned hard.

The philosophy of “trophies for everyone” has taken over.

Kids at the schools are going to face challenges when they set their sights on college.

“Considering that high school rank is often times one of the determining factors that we use for scholarships and for university admission, it’s troubling because they’re going to be competing with students [who do have] class rank,” says Mari Nicholson-Preuss, director of the Honors Program at the University of Houston-Downtown.  She explains that absent a class rank those students, and institutions of higher learning, are limited to consideration of other factors including SAT scores.  “It does create a problem, especially for students who have been traditionally disadvantaged by standardized tests.  It forces universities to look even more at those standardized tests.”  She says the habits and attitudes developed by students who rise to the top can go unrecognized as schools drop the system that has been their reward.

Supporters of the trend point to the insignificant difference between the top student and someone who comes in at, say, number five, and say this trend of the past ten years offers a more holistic approach to assessing the abilities and potential of every high school graduate.  According to Nicholson-Preuss, universities are unappreciative of having been left out of the conversation.

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