A Colorado school district recently announced the end of their “outdated” class ranking system and that, beginning with the Class of 2026, there will no longer be a class valedictorian.
The Cherry Creek School District which operates out of Greenwood Village, CO notified parents of the planned change in a letter dated March 9. The decision, they say, was made after years of discussion and in coordination with other schools.
“The role of the educator is to teach all of our students, not to rank and sort them,” the letter stated. “The practices of class rank and Valedictorian status are outdated and inconsistent with what we know and believe of our students. We believe all students can learn at high levels, and learning is not a competition.”
The letter goes on to break down the etymology of the word being unrelated to academia, “from the Latin vale dicere…’to say farewell,'” before noting that other schools have done away with this practice as well. University of Denver Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Todd Rinehart was consulted on the proposed change as well.
Rinehart stated in part, “…when students apply for college admission during the fall and winter of 12th grade, any status associated with valedictorian and salutatorian are unknown and have never been utilized by our admission committee.”
Aimed at reducing the stress of the students, the school district acknowledged that they will continue to recognize the academic achievement of students in other ways like the honor roll system and GPA cords at graduation.
“I’m kind of shocked because we’ve always [had] class ranking. There are kids that put in a little more effort…take on a little more workload, and I don’t see anything wrong with giving them a little extra recognition,” a parent identified as Tiffany told KCDO.
“I don’t understand why they’re taking that away from these hard-working kids. We’ve always instilled in our child that you do your best and when you do your best, you get reward,” she added.
Kristen Stone, another parent, suggested to KDVR that this wasn’t a solution for stress, “Taking this away is not going to fix the problem. It’s not going to fix the stress that we are seeing for other students, plus it’s taking away from those who want to work towards it.”
Despite objections from parents, this is not a new phenomenon as noted by Rinehart. The Boulder Valley School District had eliminated these designations in 2007 and Colorado Springs School District 11 honored their last valedictorian in 2018.
According to the National Association of Secondary School Principals, by 2017 nearly half of all American high schools had ceased the promotion of a class ranking system. “More and more schools are moving toward a more holistic process,” said Melanie Gottlieb of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.
While those claims may be true, it does fail to address the potential for students to use their ranked percentile within their graduating class toward scholarship applications and internship opportunities.
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