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High Schools Are Making Every Graduating Student a Winner

The ranking process of graduating seniors is changing now at high schools across the country. Instead of one student holding the title of valedictorian, it is now being shared in some cases—and opinions are mixed about this new system.

Several high schools across the country are abandoning the tradition of one valedictorian and implementing different methods of ranking.

Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, had 117 valedictorians out of 457 graduating students. Long Beach Polytechnic High School in California had 30, and some schools, like North Hills High School near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had none.

Several schools using new systems say that all students who earn straight As are valedictorians, while others are trying to include the value of Advanced Placement classes. They determine the ranks with weighted GPAs, ruling that any student with a 4.0 or above is a valedictorian.

The changes are creating ripples in the academic community at large. College admissions officers are frustrated, unable to determine a student's ranking in the class. Others feel that high schools have devalued the grades that students work hard to achieve. But there are plenty who are supportive of the idea.

"Education's not a game. It's not about 'I finished first and you finished second,' " North Hills Superintendent Patrick J. Mannarino told the Washington Post. "That high school diploma declares you all winners."

A student at Long Beach Polytechnic, Julia Jaynes, liked the changes that allowed her to be one of 30 valedictorians at graduation.

"If everyone wants to be the best, I feel like there'd be less collaboration. It makes it so you're only out for yourself," Jaynes told the Washington Post.

However, those opposed to the idea of multiple valedictorians make the point that competition is good and should be duly rewarded. The Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago is still holding to the tradition of one valedictorian in each graduating class.

"I don't plan to change our system as long as I'm principal," Principal Joyce Kenner told the Washington Post. She added that having more than one "would water down the valedictorian title."

Colleges are especially struggling with these changes. As the admission process grows more competitive every year, the lack of ranking makes it even harder for admissions officers to evaluate students.

Jim Bock, vice president and dean of admissions at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, uses the example of an applicant whose high school determined that every student finished in the top half of the class. Bock worries that this type of ranking diminishes the hard work done by dedicated students.

"It's sort of like the Lake Wobegon effect, where everybody is above average, where everyone is No. 1," Bock told the Washington Post. "When you have what I think is an artificial ranking, is that really meaningful? I would say for selective admissions, that's not doing them a service."

Which side of this argument are you on? Do you love or hate the idea of multiple valedictorians?

Image via Twenty20/ShanMan

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