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Should Every Top Student Be a Valedictorian?

Should Every Top Student Be a Valedictorian?

Some high schools across the country are changing the way they recognize top students by moving away from the tradition of honoring one top student as valedictorian and instead giving the accolade to several, to all, or to even none.

"The nation’s high schools are changing the way they recognize top students, struggling to balance praise for them while also quelling unhealthy competition among classmates as the college application process grows more cutthroat," said The Washington Post.

According to The Post, at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, VA, 117 students were honored as valedictorian this year out of the 457-person class.

In North Hills High School in Pennsylvania, the school did away with the distinction completely in 2009, a move intended to remind students and their families that a high school diploma is the ultimate distinction, said the school's superintendent.

Those who argue against reserving the valedictorian title for one top student say that doing away with the singular distinction increases collaboration amongst peers and reduces the cut-throat competition to hold the number one spot.

Others, however, say allowing for multiple valedictorians waters down the title and makes it confusing for those in college admissions.

"Jim Bock, vice president and dean of admissions at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, recalled an applicant whose Midwestern high school reported that every student finished in the top half of the class. He worries that allowing several students to share a top rank diminishes the achievement of a student who otherwise would have been alone in the top spot," The Post said.

A possible ramification towards the shift away from class ranking is the fact that most colleges no longer consider class rank an important variable in the selection process.

"In a survey of 352 colleges in 2013, the[National Association of College Admissions Counselors] found that just 15 percent of colleges weighed class rank as a factor of 'considerable importance' in admissions. In 1993, 42 percent of schools surveyed considered it an important factor."

From a student perspective, some students said they appreciated cutting out some of the stress that goes along with the college admission process by recognizing more than one top student.

"But some said it is an honor they would not want to share. Fiona Young, who was the lone 2014 valedictorian at Greenwich High School in Greenwich, Conn., set her sights on earning the title early in high school," the Post said.

Young told The Post she couldn't be a star athlete or social butterfly, so academic success and the valedictorian role was what she worked hard for and what motivated her. She said she was unsure if she would have pushed herself so far if there was a lack of distinction as a reward.

Read the full post here. What do you think? Take our survey and comment your thoughts below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

07/13/2015

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