Wake County, NC Schools Eliminate Class Rank Honors

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

In one North Carolina county, high schools are planning to eliminate the academic honor of valedictorians and salutatorians.

The Wake County School Board’s belief is that the awards celebrate too few students each year. The members also agree that the honors are not wholesome markers of success because they promote competition.

“We have heard from many, many schools that the competition has become very unhealthy,” Wake County School Board Chairman Tom Benton told The News & Observer. “We think it’s much healthier to set high expectations and high requirements for magna cum laude. The students now have a target that they can shoot for and if they achieve that they’re recognized for that.”

The county’s high schools will honor students with a GPA of 3.75 or over with the title of cum laude. Students who have a 4.0 to 4.249 will be awarded magna cum laude, and students who have a GPA of 4.25 or over will earn summa cum laude recognition.

Although the county schools will not recognize the schools’ valedictorians and salutatorians, the students’ final grade point averages will be included on their transcripts.

Kathryn Blackhurst, reporting for Ingraham Media, Inc., says that Wake County’s new plan seems to be yet another example of the public school system kowtowing to both public and internal pressure to “level the playing field” among students. Others accuse the schools of bowing to the demand for “political correctness” while minimizing the achievements of excellent students.

The students who would have been valedictorians in the Wake County high schools had opinions about the policy change. Heather Crew said to The News & Observer:

“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.”

The new policy will not be official until the board votes on June 7, and the rule will not launch until 2018, says Tre’ Goins-Phillips, reporting for The Blaze. Currently, Wake County schools name a valedictorian and salutatorian, who usually make a speech at graduation ceremonies. School Board Chairman Tom Benton said that there was no plan to combine the Latin titles with the valedictorian and salutatorian systems.

The new method is a way to encourage principals to create more diverse ways to recognize student achievement in place of centering on only class rank.

Fox News noted that it seemed the new method was implying that when a student works as hard as he or she can and is recognized for doing so, a North Carolina school board considers this accomplishment unworthy of acknowledgment.

Benton explained that students were not collaborating, something the county’s schools increasingly value. Even the courses that students choose were beginning to be based on keeping their GPA high rather than being picked to enhance their future education purposes.

Opponents of the new protocol say it smacks of the “everyone gets an award” state of mind. The motivation seems not to be equitably honoring those students who obtain the highest grade in their graduating class.

The News & Observer’s Keung Hui shared the thoughts of Shraya Changela, 18, who is the salutatorian at the Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy in Raleigh. She stated that having a chance to be rewarded for her hard work was an honor. She did not feel that having the two students who were at the top of the rating scale recognized during graduation ceremonies promoted competitiveness.