The Snobs (I Lived There, I Know), in CARY, N.C. – The Wake County school board believes the decades long tradition of naming class valedictorians and salutatorians creates “unhealthy competition,” so they voted to end the practice.
Board members voted unanimously Tuesday to ban high school principals from recognizing the top students with the titles and move to the Latin system that uses designations including cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude starting in 2018, The News Observer reports.
“We have heard from many, many schools that the competition has become very unhealthy,” board chairman Tom Benton told the news site. “Students were not collaborating with each other the way that we would like them to. Their choice of courses was being guided by their GPA and not their future education plans.”
The board vote on Tuesday was preliminary, and board members are expected to give the proposal final approval at their June 7 meeting. Under the new system, students with GPAs of 4.25 or higher would receive the summa cum laude designation, those between 4.0 and 4.249 would receive the magna cum laude title, and students between 3.75 and 3.99 would earn cum laude recognition.
“I love competition,” Benton said. “But there are competitions that you can measure very correctly and they do spur people on to bigger and better things.
“There are competitions that are much harder to have objective measurements and grading falls into that. You’ve got the subjectivity of grades being determinate.”
The Charlotte Observer noted that other area school districts like Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools don’t seem to agree with Wake County officials, and have no plans to abolish valedictorians.
Several area valedictorians for the class of 2016 expressed mixed views on the change.
“If you’re third or fourth in the class it must really be hard not to get any recognition, but there’s something to be said for the value of academic competition,” Leesville Road High School valedictorian Heather Crew told the News Observer.
“They should in general recognize honors students overall,” East Wake School of Integrated Technology valedictorian Taylor Barr said. “Students who work hard deserve recognition. But students who’ve worked really hard deserve a little more recognition.”
Melody Armistead, who shared the valedictorian title at Wake STEM Early College high school with Richard Marshall, said the “friendly competition” between the two was a key to her academic success.
“We were trying to see if we could top each other,” Armistead said. “If I’m going to be tied with anyone, I really wanted to be tied with Richard. He really gave me a run for my money.”
Knightdale High School valedictorian Jordan Nichols believes the news system could relieve some stress on high achievers.
“If you’re decimals way from being valedictorian or being up there with the valedictorian, that’s a lot of stress on you,” he said. “You’re going to feel like it’s your fault that you’re not number one.”
Fuquay-Varina High School valedictorian Anna Bennett said that eliminating the top-of-the-class recognitions could discourage some students from pushing themselves to be the best, but also noted that, in the bigger scheme of life, class rank is relatively unimportant.
“These are people killing themselves to get into Ivy League colleges,” she said. “School is stressful enough as it is.”