Graduation is in the air and so is the time for class valedictorians, or is it? It depends on where you live. If you live in Montgomery County, Maryland it doesn’t matter how high your grades are because they eliminated valedictorians a few years ago. It seems that the powers that be the school board decided that class rankings made the lower achieving students feel bad and in a progressive area like Montgomery County we couldn’t have high school students running around with low self esteem and actually finding out where they stood compared to their classmates. Thank you outcome based education.
What this has led to is a proliferation of academic rewards, many of dubious value. I attended such a ceremony recently with my son who is graduating from high school next week. When he was invited he had no idea why, so we went more out of curiosity. When we arrived we discovered that this was going to be a two hour plus affair and that he was one of a “select” group of students receiving an award. What was his achievement? He managed to maintain a GPA of 3.5 or better. Let’s just say that after seeing pages of awards to be handed out he didn’t feel too “select.”
Now to the other extreme we have Westview High in Portland, Oregon who will have not one but seventy five valedictorians. Why so many? The school district changed the grading policy awarding extra points for tough courses but allowed the schools to decide how to apply the policy and choose valedictorians. At Westview, the decision was that anyone with a 4.0 GPA is a valedictorian. In this case that’s fourteen percent of the senior class. Too bad that my son doesn’t live in Beaverton.
How does the school district feel about the valedictorians run amok policy at Westview? In an interview with the Oregonian Rick Miller, an executive administrator for the district said “Really, it’s pretty silly that you have 75 students and they all get recognized,” and added “But, six weeks before graduation and three weeks before the programs get printed, we’re not going to change the rules.”
What he is saying is that it’s too inconvenient to change the policy now and that the school district doesn’t want a fight with the parents of the students who would lose their valedictorian status under saner rules.
To Montgomery County I say restore class rankings and valedictorians and to Westview High I say let’s get real and award this recognition to the students who deserve it and not anyone whose GPA rose just because they took an AP or IB course.