June 17, 2006

A high school with 41 valedictorians?

The push for multiple valedictorians began years ago, prompted by concerns that high school had become too competitive -- so competitive that a few students seeking the title filed lawsuits. As more students enrolled in weighted advanced classes and earned grade-point averages far above 4.0, educators wondered whether it was fair to single out one teenager. There was concern a student would take a less challenging class to guarantee an A or take on an unreasonable workload of weighted classes to boost a GPA.
Interesting multiple causation. First, there's that horror of competition that we were just talking about yesterday. Second, lawyers. (They're everywhere!) Third, the students, unsurprisingly, pursue their self interest. They engage in the age-old search for the easy A. And now they've got the second strategy of taking classes where you can get, essentially, more than an A.

If there were no weighted grades, you'd know that if you had a 4.0, you would be valedictorian (but you'd still share it with everyone else who got a 4.0). Weighted grades create an amorphous system. You don't know how much you need to come in first. Pursuing the actual number one spot in a weighted GPA system has to cause a lot of stress and uncertainty, but it seems like a good idea to keep the easy-A strategy from working too well.

The title of valedictorian is a terrific prize, and it becomes meaningless if every great student wins it. Why replicate the message that is already present in the academic records? Just give the prize to the person with the highest GPA and be done with it. State the rule in advance and follow it. That's certainly the best lawyer repellent.


TWM said...

When my oldest son graduated (Honors Diploma - we were very proud) there were five valedictorians and one salutitorian. It was amusing and sad at the same time. They have succeeded in watering down the achievement so that is means nothing really.

I found myself more impressed with the salutitorian for some reason. I wonder if college admission folks feel the same way?

tiggeril said...

When I graduated from high school, we all tried to avoid being valedictorian because none of us wanted to give the speech. It was a small school (there were 10 of us in the senior class), so it came down to "You do it." "Nah, I don't wanna, you do it." It eventually came down to a rock-paper-scissors match with my best friend at the time losing and having to speak.

KCFleming said...

Pretty soon high school will look like youth soccer, where everyone gets a trophy or ribbon for participation, and everyone knows it's meaningless. Egalitarianism, the great demotivator.

What was the bad part about competition again?

P.S. Soon will they similarly declare four state basketball 'champions'?

tiggeril said...

It's usually the parents trying to make things "fair" too. When they went from place ribbons to participation ribbons at the school science fair, all the students were pissed off while the parents explained that this was to save our precious self esteem. They didn't listen when we told them that working towards a blue ribbon was what helped build self-esteem (and character), not just half-assing a project because it didn't matter one way or another.

KCFleming said...

Don't teachers assign high school students to read Harrison Bergeron anymore?

altoids1306 said...

I would love to see the reaction if the school posted the name and class rank of all students, from first to last, on a large bulletin board in the hallway, as they did at my high school.

The tale of the 41 valedictorians is just a symptom of the arms race between high schools/parents and top colleges. With more parents and students aspiring for the top universities, the admissions standards have shot up, and titles such as valedictorian become that much more valuable and sought-after.

Of course, competition is still competition, and colleges can play this game too - by heavily discounting valedictorians from this high school. We can play this elaborate dance with words, but no one is fooling anyone.

John Jenkins said...

Two words: mandatory curve.

Kurt said...

This situation is hardly new. When I graduated from high school, in the mid-1980s, I was one of 16 valedictorians. But there was only one salutatorian! My school had defined valedictorian as anyone with a 4.0, and even a few years before I graduated, there were still as many as five or six valedictorians. (While I didn't go to the high school mentioned in the article, it is perhaps worth mentioning that my high school was also located in Fairfax County.) One thing that changed a year or two before I graduated was the introduction of weighted grades for A.P. courses, and that had something (but not everything) to do with the fact that there were so many valedictorians.

The fact is, when I look at the composition of the group of valedictorians in my class (or at least the ones I remember), I'd say that about 10 of us were the more intellectual sort who took a more rigorous courseload, and the other 6 or so were the kinds of kids who took easy classes and got As and who were valedictorians as a result. But people had known about doing that for years. (A family my parents were friends with had a daughter who had taken that route three or four years before I graduated; she ended up going to UVa, but later transferred to a less-demanding institution where she was able to be a big fish in a small pond.)

It's also worth noting that at my high school, we all knew who the top-ranked student in our class was. He had better than a 4.0 on account of having taken more AP courses and gotten As in those courses than anyone else. He was a Vietnamese immigrant.

k said...

Ann.. you make it sound so simple: "State the rule and stick by it." But then, don't the ~shudder~ lawyers come on in anyway and say, "But your rule is not fair"?

PatCA said...

If lots of kids have the same GPA though how do you choose the valedictorian? Subjective standards=lawsuits.

Ann Althouse said...

K: Lawyers can always make arguments, but I think a clear rule, stated in advance, and adhered to staunchly is the best lawyer repellent. For valedictorian, highest GPA is completely traditional and understandable.

vnjagvet said...

Sounds like Lake Wobegon with grade inflation.

"Where all the kids are valedictorians".

Roger Sweeny said...

My school has a well-defined rule stated in advance. To determine "class rank," courses are weighted by how often they meet (so a whole year course counts twice as much as a half year course; meeting 5 times a cycle counts 2.5 times as much as meeting twice a cycle).

Standard courses get figured at their number grade. Honors courses get you an extra five points on your grade. AP gets you ten. So the highest average winds up above 100.

No doubt it encourages some people to take harder courses than they should--and thus creates pressure for the teacher to "dumb down" that course.

But aside from that, it seems to work.

Michael said...

I was floored when I learned who my class's valedictorian was. (For those keeping score, this was in 1979, long before multiple valedictorians.) The person with the only perfect 4.0 would never have struck me as one of the brightest people in my class. Indeed she seemed quite narrow and conventional in her thinking. Which, it dawned on me, was exactly why she had a 4.0. My friends and I, more interesting and intellectually curious, filled out most of the slots in the top 10 (actually I think I was the lowest of the lot, being of a take the easy B over the hard A nature in things I don't care about), but the perfect score went to someone who knew exactly how to color in the lines and fulfill expectations perfectly.

She's a doctor now. Probably fits.

Matt said...

My HS had 19 valedictorians (graduating class of 500), but the reasons for the system are far more cynical that lawsuit-avoidance or fluffy non-judgementalism.

The actual system is based on highest GPA, and nothing else. Honors classes get a 1 point bonus, so the valedictorians were the 19 people who took honors classes in every subject and got all A's. The reason there's no distinguishing is that the grade that counts for GPA is not the number grade, but the letter grade, so a 97 A and a 92 A count the same.

The multiple valedictorian result is a side affect of the system though- the real purpose of the system is to have a 12 or 13 percent of the class in "the top 10%". As a result of the Hopwood decision in the 5th circuit, explicit affirmative action had to bedone away with, so Texas instituted the 10% Rule, whereby being in the top 10% of your class guaranteed you acceptance into any public Texas university. On the whole, the system is far superior to affirmative action, but there are ways to exploit it, which is what my HS did. The practice is fairly common, especially among affluent, suburban schools. The multiple valedictorian result is just a side effect of the system.

Unknown said...

My school had weighted grades, which I think is entirely fair. You have to give some incentive for students to take Advanced Placement classes.

But there was only one valedictorian, the student with the highest GPA (which was something like 4.3 in my high school).

I didn't feel special because my GPA was comfortably over 4.0. I knew 4.3 was the high marker and that's what I was striving for.

Kids aren't stupid. They all knew who the "real" valedictorian was.

Maetenloch said...

Back when I was an undergraduate, I worked in the school's admission office helping with computer and miscellaneous tasks. So I got to be quite familiar with how they evaluated applicants.

This was 15 years ago at an upper middle-tier university, but even then they already took into account grade inflation and the watering down of awards. Before comparing high school GPAs, they 'renormalized' them by dropping all non-college track courses and then re-computing the student's GPA according to their own system which included the performance of previous students from that high school.

They did quite a bit of regression analysis to find the best predictors of an admitted student's GPA at the end of their freshman year (it was assumed that success or failure after this was due to factors beyond their high school experience). The best predictors were SAT scores and the renormalized GPA. Extra points were added in for academic awards, extracurricular activities, and the admission counselors' subjective opinion, however this usually only had an effect in marginal cases. Basically being valedictorian or salutatorian had almost no effect on whether you would be admitted.

Anonymous said...

(For those keeping score, this was in 1979, long before multiple valedictorians.)

Well, I graduated in 1980 and was one of eight co-valedictorians (in a class of 583). It was based strictly on GPA and all eight of us had 4.0 GPAs. Again, an A got you 4, a B 3, etc. I guess someone could have gamed the system and taken really easy classes but, as I recall, all the valedictorians were from the "smart kids" group. The thing about it in our school was that it wasn't a particularly recognized honor. Not one of the valedictorians gave a speech at graduation or anything like that. It really had no practical consequences. It just was what it was - those eight people finished with the highest GPA.

Here's one thing I've always thought was interesting, though (you'll see why in a minute). My class also had eight National Merit Finalists. Those eight, with one exception, were a completely different group of eight than the co-valedictorians. Guess who was the only person in both groups? Hmmm, who could that be... LOL

XWL said...

Somebody needs to force the administrators of this school to watch this film.

Dash: Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of. Our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone's special, Dash.
Dash: Which is another way of saying no-one is.

(also this film has been accused, or praised depending on perspective, of being one of the most libertarian family films ever made)

(the hippie-dippie soft socialism endemic in most 'family films' is another topic for another discussion, though)

Ann Althouse said...

At my high school, there was a competition for who got to do the speeches. The valedictorian was assigned the "invocation," and the salutatorian got the "benediction." Hey, those were the days -- before Lee v. Weisman.

Imagine being assigned to say a prayer! It happened to me. I used the opportunity to be creative, and it was a controversy in the local press for a couple of weeks. The local paper published a letter from a nun about how bad I was for doing an invocation like that.

I wish I could remember what I said. All I remember is that it included a quote from Herman Hesse's "Demian." I think the focus of it was reality. It's funny now -- not to mention outrageously unconstitutional -- but it hurt my feelings at the time and I felt chastened for a long, long time.

If only the ACLU had been around to make a heroine out of me, my whole life would have been different. I probably would have gone right to law school and skipped the art school and had a brilliant career.

Tor said...

I don't believe you're a valedictorian unless you give a valedictory speech. It's what the word means, for crying out loud!

So I guess I'm saying, I agree with tiggeril.

Jim C. said...

I read a suggestion that high schools use the system colleges use: everybody with a 4.0 is summa cum laude and so forth. That's better than watering down the meaning of valedictorian.

Synova said...

In a class of several hundred how likely is it that there won't be some sort of multiple tie for the top spot?

Sorry your speech didn't go over well, Ann. A couple of years before my graduation (3.0 no speeches for me) the valedictorian got up and said, "This school sucks, I'm so very glad to be done with this, good-bye losers," or something interpreted as that in so many words. From then on *all* graduation speeches by students had to be written out and approved.

Ann Althouse said...

Synova: It wasn't a speech. It was a prayer. And it was criticized for not being properly religious.

CatoRenasci said...

In my small town California high school in the mid-1960s, before weighted grading, over half of the kids in the top 10 had take the "commercial" course rather than the "college prep" course - that's right, kids with A's in typing, home economics, auto shop, and FFA agricultural science, who were - at best - going to the local junior college had higher GPAs than kids going to Berkely, Stanford, Pomona and similar schools outside of California. It was a joke. Those of us who took the honors tracked science, math, english and history courses (or sections of required courses) faced a pretty strict curve policy, which was less rigorously enforced outside of the core academic subjects. Plenty of Univeristy of California bound kids with 1300+ SATs (old style) had B's and B-s while kids in the easier sections with sub-1000 SATs had A's.

We did manage to keep a nonexistent student in school our whole senior year and sent the President of the Board of Education's weimeriener up to receive the diploma when the kid's name was called, however.

MrPhilTX said...

We had 112 kids ranked #1 in my HS graduating class. We even made the local news (my friend and were interviewed - helps to go to church with the vice principle). We weren't all called valedictorians, tho. There was still one of those, and one salutitorian, I think, I don't remember what they did (wouldn't surprise me if they were the ones that set off the firecrakers in the trash can afterwards tho). We all had over a 4.0 (AP & IB classes). What we thought would suck would be to have a 3.99 and be #113 and not even in the top 10% and barely in the top 20% (class size of 638, IIRC). This was 1989 in TX, so it seems the top 10% thing mattered (I didn't apply to any state schools).
Personally, I think this 'self-esteem' thing people do - "we're all winners" is more detrimental than helpful in the long run. Feels like hippie culture to me.

Jack Berkery said...

Meaningless, absolutely meaningless and a grand waste of everyone's energy worrying over high school rank.

I'm old-school, quite literally, from 1965. I placed just below the median, something like 255 out of 500 in my class, but matured enough to acheive a 3.6 GPA (before grade inflation) for an MS in computer science. I have so far had a very successful 35 year career and no one has ever, ever, ever, asked about my high school rank or grades.

P_J said...


I thought of the same film when I saw this thread. I had another quote in mind, though:

"It's psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional..."

steve u. said...

My brother worked hard to be valedictorian of our high school, and would have been but for a "B" in drivers ed. Life is competitive. Some can parallel park, and some can't.

Pat Patterson said...

Pogo; Too late, in California most high school sports have 5 state championships via schools being sorted by attendance into divisions. Yes, it trivializes the kids and the sport but does anyone really want to see, say, Sherman Indian against Long Beach Poly.

Aaron Davies said...

WTF? I went to a pathetic public high school in (semi-) rural Kentucky, where a quarter of the graduating class got 4.0's, and they had the (apparently un-) common sense to make ranking dependent on your actual numerical average out of 100. It it really that unobvious of a solution?

visioneerwindows said...

That is the thing of it - self esteem comes from within - it is not something anyone can give, nor take away... it is, in effect, the reputation which one has with oneself...

Matt said...


What the solution is depends on what you think the problem is. If you want an actual ranking, then yes, numerical grades are the obvious solution. If you don't want an actual ranking, but instead one that punches the auto-admission ticket to state colleges for more of your students instead, then what is currently done is the obvious way to go about things.

Considering what we witness, what do you think school administrators think is a bigger problem?

John Jenkins said...

High school class rank is a laughable concept, anyway. I can't remember what mine was, but it was low. Nonetheless, I was top 10% in college and raw top 15 (8% or so) in law school. High school class rank doesn't mean a damn thing ;-)

billo said...

When I was in medical school, we didn't have grades. Instead, we just had the numerical averages for the courses -- if you got a 91%, then you scored 1% more than someone who scored a 90%. At the end of four years, we had two students (neither of which was me!) who were *almost* tied for valedictorian -- they had the same average to the third decimal place. One of the students scored 4 points higher in one elective taken the second year, and that gave him the .001% he needed.

Adam Villani said...

Hey, I went to Long Beach Poly, class of 1991. We had a big college prep program called PACE and, to my recollection, nobody did any jockeying for class rank. Yes, there were people trying to get as many As as possible (self included), but I remember the culture as being one of competing to try to get as high grades aas possible, not against each other.

I took a bunch of AP classes and ended up getting, I think, 2 Bs. My memory of graduation is pretty hazy; I think there were about 6 students who got to be valedictorians, and I wasn't one of them but got to walk up with them to fill out a space in the march. I don't remember anybody giving a speech or not, but the valedictorians got to wear gold robes instead of green ones.

My SAT scores were really good and I got into Caltech, where just about everybody had been near the top of their high school class, thrust into an environment where half of the students were below the median. That was me, scraping by in 5 years with a stellar Caltech GPA of 2.3!

After getting admitted into college, nobody gave a rat's ass what your high school GPA or SAT scores were.

Harold said...

My high school, in 1973, did it differently. GPA times course credits, added up for all courses. If A took 4 courses, and got all A's, and B took 5 courses, 4 the same as A, and got A's in the shared courses, and a B in the added course, B would rank higher, for having taken more courses. Taking a minimum courseload of easy courses didn't cut it.

Josh Ausborne said...

As a guy who graduated number 208 out of a class of 213, I can attest to the fact that most of the graduates won't remember or care who the valedictorian is. For a guy who barely graduated from high school and never went to college (unless you count that 2 credit firearms class), I'm doing pretty damn well for myself.

Mike said...

I don't think having multiple valedictorians is that big a problem. At my school, the top several people always came within a hundredth of a point of each other. Can anyone say there's a meaningful difference between those scores? Why not let them all get it? 41 is probably excessive to the point of becoming meaningless, though.

Kev said...

John Jenkins: "Two words: mandatory curve."

I think you commented on this same subject over at Volokh earlier in the week, right? I missed the window for commenting on that post, so let me ask it here: What in the world is the point of using a curve? How can one possibly determine what percentage of students will make a specific grade before the test is even given? And, for that matter, what's wrong with actually letting everyone receive the grade that they earned, within the preset parameters (A= 90-100, etc.)?

Granted, I teach mostly music ensembles, where the grades are totally driven by attendance, so this is quite a bit out of my sphere...but I just don't get this concept at all.

James said...

My high school graduating class (1984) had exactly the opposite problem. We had two girls with 4.0s and one with a 3.9something (one B in her career). Essentially randomly, one of the 4.0 girls was deemed "Valedictorian" and the other "Salutorian."

Our class was the last or next-to-last before AP classes were introduced but there were a handful of classes--notably physics and advanced math (essentially, pre-calculus)--that almost everyone, including the two 4.0 girls--avoided.

We also had, beginning in 10th grade, a track system whereby some large percentage of the students voluntarily went to trade school, taking only English and some other course that escapes me now with the regular students. Their grades were weighed exactly the same as the rest of ours. The result was that I actually graduated behind at least one student who was a cosmetology major owing to two or three B's I got taking classes like physics and advanced math.

Ann Althouse said...

Kev: One obvious point of a curve is to prevent the "easy A" strategy. The easy teacher has to give out just as many Cs as the hard teacher.

Ann Althouse said...

And it doesn't make sense to assume that because you got 90% of the questions correct, you deserve a 90. The correlation between the percent correct and the grade deserved is little more than a coincidence. What if they were very easy questions and most of the kids in the class got all 10 right? What if, on the other had there were 10 very hard questions, and the best student in the class got 7 right?

Brian said...

The problem I have with a curve is not the situation that Ann describes, but the situation where there are 10 really hard questions and someone in the class gets all 10 right, and the next best student has 6 correct. It was my experience in college that the professor would typically throw out the top score for the purposes of computing the curve, but that never seemed fair.

After all, if I got everything right, why should I be penalized by equating my score to that of someone who only got 6 out of 10 correct?

Of course, there's a perfectly logical answer to this, which is that the test was really hard, and the other students can't be punished for the fact that someone in the class managed to get them all right. But I think there is a basic human impulse to see others punished for not being good as one's self, and this impulse is a necessary part of the competitive spirit. I see it expressed in the debate on illegal immigration; have you ever talked to a legal immigrant who wants to kick all the illegals out for not following the difficult and slow process they went through? Similarly, as a scrupulously law-abiding driver it upsets me to hear about others getting off tickets on a technicality or being let go with a warning. I want the other people on the road to be punished!

xwl: spot-on. I love that movie!

Ann Althouse said...

Brian: I've been working with a curve for 20 years. It's not that hard to deal with that or any other situation that comes up. You write out all the raw scores and find the median and give that exam the grade the class average should be. You give the bottom raw score the grade it deserves (and there's no requirement that anyone get an F or a D). You give the top raw score the grade it deserves (and use an A+ if that person is way apart from the rest). Now, you fill in the rest of the grades, based on the distances between the raw scores you've already graded. Things always fall into place. It's not a mathematical equation.

Ann Althouse said...

And let me add, that I have percentage targets in each grade range, so I can't give only one A. I'm required to give a certain percent.

Laura Lee Donoho said...

My daughter graduated from Robinson High School in Fairfax, VA in the late nineties. Even then they had seven valedictorians.

My daughter was an Army brat so Robinson didn't accept all of her credits from the Catholic School she transferred from in another state so she wasn't in the running for valedictorian.

Robinson was a great school though. Both my daughters loved the drama program which is still being run by their beloved teacher, Mr. Rome.

I actually don't remember any of the speeches given by the valedictorians at her graduation which was held at George Mason University but I still remember the address given by George Mason's Basketball coach.

My daughter just passed the bar and will be a working attorney soon so I have to give her educational experience at Robinson a thumbs up.

She graduated from there with a full scholarship and went on to law school.

B. Durbin said...

There's also the simplified curve model, in which you take the top score and give that an A and then calculate the percentages based on that score. But a regular curve doesn't work too well if you're in a small class because the sample size is insufficient.

I was 11th in my graduating class of 65 (which I remember because I was neither in the top ten nor the top ten percent.) At the awards banquet, the valedictorian equivalent muttered to me as she passed my table "But you took harder classes." Students know.

We didn't actually have valedictorian and salutatorian. Instead we had presentation competitions, with votes only coming from those who attended. I ended up singing.

And the awards banquet did have a certain level of absurdity with all of the things given out. At least the awards all had very specific requirements, and most of them were not watered down. (Things like service— it was a Catholic school— and arts were awarded as well as academics.)

Edmund said...

I was, in 1973, one of 26 valedictorians in a class of 696. All of us had GPAs over 4.0, due to honors courses. No numeric class scores were given at the time by our district. The reason for multiple valedictorians was to prevent some of the gaming that now goes on. (I was 12th due to a "C" in typing. I did have the highest SAT in the school, so that helped on my college applications.)

In our district, since they dropped multiple valedictorians the gaming includes:
- taking the minimum number of non-AP courses (so as not to dilute the bonus points from AP)
- taking non-AP courses via correspondence so that they count for graduation, but are not part of your GPA.
- Smart parents make sure their kid takes Gym outside of regular school. One student got her training for dressage competition counted as gym.
- incredible bullying of teachers about grades
- transferring in senior year from a top high school to a low-performing one so as to boost class rank. If you were not black or hispanic, they couldn't stop you, since the target schools were mostly minority and you helped the integration stats

When my daughter enrolled in high school, they had a parent meeting to explain how to do all this and game the system for all it was worth. It was needed since over 20% of the graduating classes there have GPAs over 4.0. And not being in the top 10% meant that you are not guaranteed admission to the state schools in Texas.

Woody said...

At a high school that I won't name to protect the source, the school expanded the valedictorian list to something like 27, which is what it took to get to a black student and which was their objective. She was quite proud of an honor that she didn't deserve and apparently didn't understand, as she put on her college applications that she was the "Valid Victorian." No lie.

Kev said...

Ann said: "One obvious point of a curve is to prevent the "easy A" strategy."

and "What if they were very easy questions and most of the kids in the class got all 10 right?"

If that were the case, I'm not sure I would rush to the assumption that the test (or the teacher) was too easy. Isn't it in fact possible that the reason everyone did so well is that the material was interesting and was taught well, and the students actually did the studying they were supposed to do...or am i being way too idealistic here?

"What if, on the other had there were 10 very hard questions, and the best student in the class got 7 right?"

That would be the only reason presented thus far that I could see for using a curve, but it seems to me that such a practice should only be used if the above situation actually happens.

Either that, or...well, the top student gets a 70. Is that bad? Otherwise, it seems like we're pandering to the self-esteem crowd in much the same way that the 41-valedictorian school did.

"The easy teacher has to give out just as many Cs as the hard teacher."

This strikes me as a quota system, which to my mind is rarely a good thing. Why should my grade be affected by how others in the class have done if we're each working independently?

Again, this is very different from what happens in my area of teaching. As a music professor, I have mostly ensemble classes where the grading is based on attendance. There have been many semesters where my grades have been either A's or F's, with nothing in the middle (the A students being the ones who show up to all the rehearsals and performances, and the F ones being those who stopped showing up halfway through the semester and neglected to drop the class). How things work in "the other part of campus" is interesting to me, but I guess I'm not completely gettin g this point yet.

Ann Althouse said...

The reason the grade can be properly affected by how other students do in the class is that it is valuable information about how hard the test was.

Andrew Pass said...

Many educators have a hard time singling out individual students as winners, since this means that students who are not singled our are not winners. If they are not winners then the popular wisdom goes that they must be losers. Educators don't want to label people as "losers" so they don't label winners. This actually might not be so bad. Everybody deserves to be a winner.

However, we live in a society in which everybody cannot be a winner. Somebody is going to get the job and everybody else is not going to get it when only one person can be hired. Does this mean that we should start selecting winners and losers in high school?

Perhaps educators should not see it as proclaiming that everybody other than the winner is a loser. People can be winners in multiple different ways. Perhaps schools should have one valedictorian and find ways to honor others, as appropriate.

Andy Pass

Rich Vail said...

High school rankings are meaningless...I ranked 423 out of 422 graduating (I quit, took the GED to go to the local community college because I bored with high school). What is amusing about this is that I'm the only Ph.D. in my entire high school class! So much for rankings (SAT score 1331 [old style])!

John Danneskjöld said...

On the subject of valedictorians and the definition thereof, what do you call it when the politically connected (Democrat)student with no higher than the second highest GPA is the valedictory speaker and the student with the highest GPA is honored with something called "Most Outstanding Graduate"? The stated reason was to "spread the wealth." Interestingly enough, this happened at a law school where a certain well-respected pundit/blogger is on the faculty.

Kev said...

"The reason the grade can be properly affected by how other students do in the class is that it is valuable information about how hard the test was."

That makes total sense to me in terms of using the results to improve the test before it's administered next time, but I still don't see why that can affect the grades of the test that was just taken.

This has been very interesting; I guess fine arts and law school are completely different animals, aren't they?

thewordofrashi said...

The idea behind this isn't to make it easier for kids to "win." Those of you who say this are completely missing the point. I go to an extremely competitive public high school, in which our 2006 valedictorian had a relatively low GPA of a 5.41. Imagine that. That's low for our valedictorian. The difference between number 1 and number 2? About a hundredth of a point.

A smarter system is to install a "Cum Laude" system, similar to what they use in many colleges. Honor every student that has shown outstanding academic performance, not just the one that took 8 AP classes a year for at least two years, never took a lunch, and never took classes in fields they were really interested in - only because they were not heavily weighted enough.

iamtooperfect said...

I am so pissed off. I basically have a 5.0 gpa weighted gpa, ranked 1 in the class. But all these other people below me are also becoming valedictorians even though they took non-honors classes.It's like I did hard work for nothing, absolutely nothing. This is equivalent to communism. I only believe in capitalism, where competition is fair.

Unknown said...

My class graduated with 10 valedictorians and three salutatorians. But for my school, the requirement for valedictorian was that the student MUST take Honors (no regular courses aloud!) classes throughout his/her four years in high school, achieve a GPA of 4.0 or higher in those classes, and maintain that high GPA throughout those for years. AP classes are optional, but highly recommended. I found it fair for my school because all of the valedictorians took Honors-only classes and AP classes. they were also pretty hard-workers in their interests and hobbies (first chairs in orchestra, class presidents, club presidents, sports awards...etc.). I think they deserved it.

and the only time they took "easy way out" classes were the required electives, which are always easy anyway.

surfric said...

I was salutatorian in my high school, and didn't have to give a speech because the administration was afraid of what a drugged out hippy might say!