The school board in Anne Arundel County, Maryland will be voting on a very questionable new policy tomorrow. The board is considering a proposal to end the policy of tracking rankings of high school students and eliminating traditional honors for top performers, including valedictorian and salutatorian. How did anyone decide that this was a good idea? CBS Baltimore has the story.
Does class rank matter?
Anne Arundel County’s Board of Education is considering a change to its policy that would eliminate class ranks — including valedictorian and salutatorian. The meeting is scheduled for April 3.
The changes being proposed would be effect the 9th grade class starting high school in 2021.
The board last considered removing class rank when the cum laude honors system was instated in 2017.
As to the question of why, the board has determined that the competitive nature of high school academics can result in “stresses related to students who tailor their schedules almost exclusively in an effort to achieve valedictorian or salutatorian status.”
Seriously? Isn’t that sort of the point of assigning grades in the first place? It sets the very best in the bunch apart and improves their chances of being accepted to the best colleges. (Well… unless their parents are really rich people from Hollywood, that is.) Not everyone can come in first or second, but you try your hardest and do the best you can. It’s a rather important life lesson when you stop to think about it.
So what are they replacing the ranking system with? Some sort of participation trophy or just a vote on who’s most likely to succeed? Well, it’s not quite that bad, but it’s definitely closer to the participation trophy model. This article from 2017 explains the high school cum laude honors system. Every student finishing with a 4.3 GPA or higher is awarded summa cum laude status. Anyone with a GPA of 4.0 to 4.29 gets magna cum laude honors. As for the rest of the pack, anybody who manages a 3.4 GPA or above is tagged with cum laude status.
Let’s be honest here… for anyone not dealing with an impairment of some sort, 3.4 isn’t really that high of a bar to set if you at least show up every day and put in a nominal amount of effort. So that does give it more of a participation trophy feel. And if there are a bunch of overperforming students in a sizable school, you might wind up with dozens of summa cum laude students. That’s no doubt a point in their favor when applying for college, but without the valedictorian and salutatorian titles, they have no way to prove that they were truly the best of the best.
Is this effort to “remove stress” from the students really doing them any favors? Life is a competitive sport in virtually every aspect of it. High school is not too soon to learn that. And in the process, they are probably decreasing the chances of their actual valedictorian and salutatorian getting into their first choice schools.