right arrow
Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
We’ve got a new look! Walk through the key updates here.

"Battle to Be Valedictorian Gives Some Administrators Pause" (NY Times)

tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 17,471 Senior Member
edited July 2008 in Parents Forum
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/29/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/29Rvald.html
But as the path to that honor has intensified over recent years, some administrators are beginning to question the valedictorian tradition. Several factors — including the increase in the number of high school students, grade inflation, intense competition for college acceptances and a savvier student body — have changed the game.
edited July 2008
36 replies
Post edited by tokenadult on
· Reply · Share
«13

Replies to: "Battle to Be Valedictorian Gives Some Administrators Pause" (NY Times)

  • sumzupsumzup 782 replies17 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 799 Member
    At my high school there's a 4.0 cap...so there end up being 5-6 valedictorians, which really doesn't bother anyone. Over here, it's not really that much of a distinction.
    · Reply · Share
  • ConsolationConsolation 22846 replies184 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 23,030 Senior Member
    Our school declares a sal and a val every year, plus a "top ten"--the latter apparently a regional tradition. But it's based on unweighted grades. Although the two honorees this year were certainly worthy, there have been years when the val had never taken a single honors course. And half of the top ten are students who don't take challenging classes. Most of the Ivy acceptees in my S's class are not in the "top ten." It makes it fairly meaningless to many.
    · Reply · Share
  • mamabear1234mamabear1234 3479 replies45 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,524 Senior Member
    The system is crazy. I'm sure everyone in top ten of D's class had all A's, the order came down to how many unweighted classes the students took. Those who wanted to be first took study hall instead of a non-weighted elective. My D took some fun classes like theater, cooking, etc, which brought her rank down, but she was OK with that. About one-fifth of the class had GPA's of 4.0 or above!
    · Reply · Share
  • MidwestMom2Kids_MidwestMom2Kids_ 6345 replies328 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 6,673 Senior Member
    I am happy my childrens' high school does not rank. And kids from this school get into nearly every Ivy every year.
    · Reply · Share
  • momreadsmomreads 3243 replies5 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,248 Senior Member
    Our high school does weight AP or pre-AP classes. Some of our students were stunned to learn that a 4.0 class would reduce your GPA if your GPA was above a 4.0 overall. Others knew that, and they schedule themselves accordingly. The past four years, we've had some battles for that top spot. Twice, it has come down to a final examination or project in a particular class. Of course, the teachers do not know that when they start their grading for that final exam/project. So they, too, will be surprised who earns the top spot. From what I understand, the class of '09 should be interesting with as many as seven people holding 4.0 GPAs or better.
    · Reply · Share
  • ConsolationConsolation 22846 replies184 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 23,030 Senior Member
    I've noticed that there is definitely an advantage to being known as one of the "straight A" students. Even the teacher who cheerfully screws most of the top kids in the class doesn't want to be the one to break the "perfect" record.
    · Reply · Share
  • advantagiousadvantagious 1220 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,221 Senior Member
    Alright, I have to swim against the stream. I do not think that ranking is necessarily wrong, and I think it is helpful in some situations. Coming from a large (3600 students) public high school that was good but did not send very many to prestige schools, especially outside of the midwest, I was grateful to have a (weighted) rank that quickly and easily put my grades into perspective for admission counselors who had encountered very few, if any, applicants from my school. Having class rank did not cause endless in-fighting among students, nor did it cause students to do ridiculous things to game the system. In my year, we ended up with 2 valedictorians and 3 sals, and because rank is weighted, these were the students who had done the best in the hardest classes .

    Now, I do think it is important not to overvalue rank--there's a lot more to being an all-around good student than earning an A in every class, I'd say--but I do think that, when done well, class rank can be helpful for students coming from large, not ultra-competitive, public high schools such as mine. I understand why small and/or very competitive schools would not want to rank, but I do not believe that it is always wrong to.

    Edit: And the teachers at my high school couldn't have cared less, in general, about giving a formerly straight A student a lower grade if that's what they thought was warranted. That's not to say that they vindictively tried to go after those kids, but (if they even knew about it), giving a straight A student a lower grade was not a concern of theirs.
    · Reply · Share
  • bluebayoubluebayou 26529 replies172 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 26,701 Senior Member
    ^^Your post just supports the non-ranking philosophy. IMO, you can have five vals and sals. If 5, why not 6 or ten or twenty?
    · Reply · Share
  • advantagiousadvantagious 1220 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,221 Senior Member
    ^^I don't see how. 5 students out of the 770 who graduated is pretty minimal, and isn't that much more than the traditional one val/one sal (my father did think that since there were 2 vals, there should be no sals, because when there is a tie technically the next person/people are ranked third). If my schools system of ranking, which is relatively complicated and thus unlikely to do so, produced 20 students with the highest and second highest GPA, then I wouldn't have a problem with it. But, like I said, it's pretty unlikely with the way my school calculates rank.

    Besides, I'm not really so concerned with rank as a means of crowning a val and sal. I'm more concerned with rank as a means of giving admissions officers quick and clear perspective of how well a student has preformed in comparison to their class mates. If all my transcript says is that my weighted GPA is 4.42, and my guidance counselor does not offer any more information, how do you know if that's a really good GPA, a fine but not spectacular GPA, or a mediocre GPA for my school? Especially if this college gets very few applications from my high school? Now, if it says that I have a 4.42 weighted GPA, and that I'm ranked 14/770, and that I don't share that rank with anyone, they know immediately how well I've done compared to my classmates.

    Edit: A clarification: The valedictorian of my high school is the student (or students) who obtains the highest weighted GPA. So in my year, two students obtained exactly the same GPA (they both got straight A's in the same amount of honors classes). The three sals obtained the exact same second-highest GPA.
    · Reply · Share
  • mathmommathmom 31930 replies155 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 32,085 Senior Member
    So far our school which ranks on a 0-110 scale weighted has never produced a tie, even though there are 700+ kids in the graduating class. While you probably could game the system, I don't have the sense that people are dropping orchestra and other unweighted classes to get the top spot. I think it might help that no one knows their rank until it's announce, though I suppose you could quiz the likely suspects about their weighted GPAs which do appear on the report cards.
    · Reply · Share
  • LongPrimeLongPrime 5106 replies102 discussions- Posts: 5,208 Senior Member
    For each student and person will seek their own place in this world. Does a mentally handicap who gets a 4.0 any less of a valedictorian at his level; Do we not applaude his efforts? For the 60% amongst us, do we handicap those who get 4.0? For those who are in the top 20%, and only get 3.0, are they better than the lower tier?
    · Reply · Share
  • NewHope33NewHope33 6136 replies72 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 6,208 Senior Member
    If a straightforward solution existed for this dilemma, there probably wouldn't be an issue to discuss. A case can be made that anyone with all A's should be Val, simply because s/he received the highest available grade in all classes. And a case can be made that Val is a singular term. Whatever. How does one handle the case where a student in one school gets a B in AP Calc and 5 on the AP Calc test, and a student in another school gets an A in the class and a 2 on the test? Would anyone feel comfortable with a Val who'd taken 15 AP courses and gotten no better than 1 on any of the AP tests?
    · Reply · Share
  • bluebayoubluebayou 26529 replies172 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 26,701 Senior Member
    advantagious:

    Your dad is correct. If you have an arithmetical tie for Val, by definition your HS has no second place. Again, why is 5 out of 770 ok, but not 7 or 10, or 20+? Where do you draw the line?

    Admissions officers look at the school profile to put a 4.42 into context.
    · Reply · Share
  • advantagiousadvantagious 1220 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,221 Senior Member
    Well, first off I just want to point out that I did not make a judgment as to 5 being an acceptable number of vals/sals but 7 being too many, or 7 being acceptable and 15 being too many or anything of the sort. I initially said that I think there are situations in which ranking is not wrong or in need of abolishment, and I still think that. I also said in my follow up post in response to your question that if 20 students met my school's definition of valedictorian, I would not think that that was wrong (although I would find it exceptional, given the relative unlikelihood of that happening under my school's system, I do admit). I'm not going to answer the question "where do you draw the line", because I'm really just not that interested in bickering over what should and should not be a valedictorian or how many there should be or any of that. I view having a valedictorian as a side effect of maintaining class rank, and so I only really care about keeping the distinction around in that I would like to keep class rank around *in some cases*. Per my example, I was not my school's valedictorian and, I can assure you, was at no point in the running for that distinction (nor was I ever interested in the distinction). So I'm not speaking out of personal interest.


    It depends on the school profile if an applicant who is only given a GPA can have that GPA put into context by the admissions officer. Mine does include a breakdown of what the top GPA is and what the 90th percentile GPA is, so my GPA could have mostly been put into context without the rank. I don't think this is true of all schools, though--I know that I read a book written by a former admissions officer at Harvard in which he pretty openly made the case for a more, instead of less, precise ranking system. He lamented that sometimes absolutely no context was given for grades, and also was less than thrilled with schools that gave ranking by deciles or quintiles, being that it could be difficult or impossible to tell whether a student was in the top few in their class, or barely hanging on to the top 10%. I fully admit the fact that this book is a few years old by this point (not 20 years or anything like that, but around 7, I believe. I realize that this is not an insignificant amount of years in the context of college admissions). Still, I don't think I'm out on a crazy person limb here. I recognize that there are situations in which using class rank is not ideal. But I just don't think that it is the devil incarnate.
    · Reply · Share
  • BrandoIsCoolBrandoIsCool 758 replies41 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 799 Member
    At my school you need a 4.0 Weighted to be a Val. Granted that you only get 0.025 added to every semester of AP classes you take. This year's was a ~4.4 GPA by the 1st ranked. He took 12 AP's and only got 1 B in all his classes.

    There were 35+ Val's this year, almost 40, but my school is large and this year happened to ULtra competetive.
    · Reply · Share
This discussion has been closed.

Recent Activity