Who’s No. 1 in the class? Rankings being eliminated.

Over the years, I have received about a dozen calls from parents upset over how their schools determine valedictorian. Most calls were about decisions by the schools to stop weighting honors courses, which sometimes meant a child was losing the top spot to a classmate who did not take as demanding a course load, at least according to the parent on the phone with me.

And I have heard from a few students who lamented similar policy changes that they said cost them the valedictorian honors.

In this Cherokee dispute over the Etowah High School valedictorian, it again comes down to policy. I am baffled why anyone on this blog is ascribing any motives or wrongdoing to the two students. They are blameless. They did exactly what we want students to do — work hard and excel.

Nor do I blame the private school parents who enrolled their daughter at Etowah to take advantage of a college program. If the parents live in the county, they are paying taxes for the school and have the right to enroll their child, for whatever purpose. I don’t see how what they did  is unethical. They wanted the best for their daughter and it wasn’t at anyone else’s expense. They surely didn’t foresee this valedictorian conflict. (I can’t believe any parent would willingly walk into this mess.)

The problem is that the valedictorian policy in Cherokee — and most places — speaks to students who are enrolled in the school rather than who attend, a small distinction that looms larger in this new era of virtual classes and early college options.

One solution to disputes over who’s ranked first in the class is to drop class rankings, which has been done by many private schools around the country and is now spreading to public schools.

The practice began in high achieving schools where students with 3.7 averages were ending up with low class rankings that hurt them in the  college admissions  process.  These top high schools said their students were being hurt in comparisons with students from less-competitive high schools where landing in the top 15 percent was not as difficult.

Without a class ranking on a student’s transcript, the high schools maintain that colleges have to dig deeper in their evaluations, drilling down to the student’s test scores, the rigor of their classes and their essays.

A Time magazine story reported on the decision last year of the top-notch Naperville, IL., district to eliminate rankings:

The rankings will be phased out over the next year, with 2007’s upperclassmen deciding whether to include such a rank in their official transcripts. By no longer ranking students, the Naperville School District 203 is squarely in line with a trend that is fast sweeping the nation, as more and more private and public schools are dropping the practice. The goal, proponents say, is to cut down on the hyper-competition and lessen the stress at such a critical learning point and maturation curve in kids’ lives.

“It’s a high bar we set, and it should be,” said Naperville Superintendent Alan Leis. “But there needs to be more than wrestling over who’s better than who.” Class rankings, a tradition at many schools, have long helped universities and colleges — especially the Harvards and Princetons of the world — weed out the weak students from the strong, the ones with not only promise but the ambition to excel and meet the rigors of higher education.

Some 80% or more public schools still report rankings to inquiring universities and colleges, but a growing number of high schools in the Chicago area and around the country — in mostly affluent districts from California to Miami to New Jersey — have already adopted the practice. A much higher number of private schools do not share their rankings, including some independent schools in Chicago that, for example, have cum laude societies that recognize the top 10% of a class but choose to allow the student body — not GPA — dictate who speaks at graduation. Even in Naperville, a valedictorian is still expected to address the class, but that honor is not chosen until the last weeks of a school year and is not forwarded on to schools in official transcripts.

Students and their parents increasingly fight over who gets to be number one, and the damage that can be done — both academically and psychologically — to those who lose out far trumps the benefits of the glory attached to such titles, according to Dr. Scott Hunter, a clinical psychologist and school consultant at the University of Chicago Hospitals who specializes in pediatric neuropsychology.”The reality is that we have made in the last 10 years more of rank than it deserves because some kids don’t really shine until they enter into adulthood, and they risk being ignored by the very places and people where they could greatly succeed,” adds Hunter.”This is an artificial number in terms of where a person really falls.”

“It makes it a little more opaque for us on the admissions side, but we fully understand it,” said Jim Miller, director of admissions at Brown University. “It’s conceivable a student could get a B in gym and get knocked down 40 places in rank. So we’re getting more used to it, and probably half our applicants now come from schools that don’t have rank. You just have to ascertain, through student profiles and other means, the strength of a schedule and student performance relative to other students.”

I am not a fan of class rankings only because there are students who push themselves to take the tougher courses even though they might get a B instead of a guaranteed A in a less taxing class. The classes a student chooses can play a role in their GPA, which means we aren’t judging all students on the same basis.

Any other ideas?

–By Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

96 comments Add your comment

Ed Johnson

February 5th, 2011
11:23 am

“Ranking is a farce.”
–W. Edwards Deming


February 5th, 2011
11:41 am

Hmmm. I wonder if all those auto body shop classes I took in the 12th grade bumped up my class ranking? I got A’s in all of them.

“Uh, uh, uh, Lee shouldn’t be ranked higher than me, he only took shop his senior year.”

“Oh yeah? Let’s see you straighten that fender on that 65 Chevy, Einstein.”

My theory, the same folks who came up with the scoring system for figure skating sold it to our public schools.

What a mess….

David Sims

February 5th, 2011
11:48 am

Ranking isn’t a farce. It just isn’t as reliable as test scores. In order to give ranking the same reliability as test scores, tests would have to be graded blind (in the scientific procedural sense), so that no teacher would know the name of the student whose test she was grading, at least not while she was grading it. Some other teacher would put a drawn-out-of-a-hat student number on the test before handing it to the teacher who would do the grading. I remember from my own high school days that teachers had their favorites, and that they also held grudges, and that politics was sometimes a factor in whether a teacher made allowances or gave the benefit of the doubt while grading.

But, for now, the SAT score is a better measure of a student’s learning than the class ranking is.

Ole Guy

February 5th, 2011
11:58 am

Could it be that these parents, and their self-esteem seeking kids, are affraid of a little competition? Unlike some elementary school events, in which everyone’s a winner; everyone receives some sort of award…lest their feelings become bruised…these high school kids are supposed to be mature enough to realize that not everyone is “top-o’-the-heap”. There are winners and there are…to put it in stark reality…loosers. The sooner these damn parents, who lost that boat long long ago, and their kids realize this fact, the better off we’ll all be.

It’s no damn wonder their are so many teen suicides in this Country. These F_ _ _ _ _ G parents put the notion in their kids’ heads that #2 is first place looser. (That only counts in Ranger School).

How bout you people, parents AND kids, grow the hell up.

V for Vendetta

February 5th, 2011
11:59 am

Agree with David Sims here: Because of the various difficulty levels ascribed to classes–to say nothing of different teachers and their respective styles–a semi-objective unit of measure such as the SAT might be a more accurate yardstick.

PC gone wild

February 5th, 2011
12:21 pm

Class ranks have always been that the children taking the harder classes and who have worked the hardest will be at the top of their class. Class ranking is what drives some people to work harder and to take harder classes, instead of the easy way out of high school.

I went to high school with my husband who was #1 in our class. He worked his tail off for the honor and as he will tell anyone who asks, it wasn’t until he was earning his PhD where he encountered people who were truly smarter than him and who made him want to work even harder than he already was.

Taking class ranking out of high school is just another way that society is making everything “equal.” Will we stop taking score at sports events next.

For myself, an above average kid, knowing my class ranking made me work harder in school than I normally would have, so that I could improve it. I knew that I wasn’t going to be in the top ten, but I wanted to see how far I could work to get my way to the top.

Will our society prescribe the same amount of pay for all jobs next? Or will everyone be issued the same exact house, because we wouldn’t want Johnny to have a bigger, better house than Susie?


February 5th, 2011
12:21 pm

Even I agree with David Sims about the reliability of ranking. High school course difficulty and grading is sufficiently subjective that small differences in marks are meaningless.

I don’t agree, however, with the statement “… the SAT score is a better measure of a student’s learning ….” The SAT covers only a couple of subject areas and those not at a particularly high level. It doesn’t provide any insight into how well students have mastered History, Biology, Chemistry, Spanish, Calculus, etc. A good score on the SAT just means that you’re good at the SAT.

Ed Johnson

February 5th, 2011
12:29 pm

“But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave”.
–Erica Goldson, Valedictorian of Coxsackie-Athens High School

Erica’s Valedictorian address, here…

Deming is right: “Ranking is farce.” Erica gets it.


February 5th, 2011
12:46 pm

AP Calculus–”B”
Who should be ranked higher?

Former Teacher

February 5th, 2011
12:50 pm

*”I am not a fan of class rankings only because there are students who push themselves to take the tougher courses even though they might get a B instead of a guaranteed A in a less taxing class. The classes a student chooses can play a role in their GPA, which means we aren’t judging all students on the same basis.”*

Solution: weighted classes. General-level classes, such as art electives, shop, phys. ed., — that is to say, classes that anyone can take and which do not have different ability groupings such as honors or gifted — get a max of 4.0, regardless of the subject. Honors or gifted, 4.2 or 4.5 or what-have-you. (A “B” in AP Calculus BC should, by golly, count for more than an “A” in Team Sports, no?)

This gives students a choice: If you choose to take regular history instead of AP History, so you can study less and have less work overall, that’s wonderful; but you’d better be certain to get that A, because you’d only have to get a B to do just as well GPA-wise in a more challenging class.

I grew up in a system that did this, and one of the wonderful effects was that students self-selected based on what was important to them, and didn’t have to be afraid to take more challenging classes — where they arguably belonged — for fear of hurting their GPA if they earned less than an A. That being said, this was before the rampant grade inflation we have today. It was hard to earn an A in ANY class. “A”s were not handed out like candy in regular classes to compensate for the weighting, and the classes that were weighted definitely made you earn that extra few tenths of a grape-point. To some, the reward did not justify the extra work. That was part of what made the system so brilliant: it was a choice where you could “win” either way you decided, less work but you need to be sure to get the A, or more challenging work, but a small compensation in your GPA to reward you for taking the harder route.

Non-weighted grades make you gamble — you can, in fact, hurt yourself by taking a challenging, enriching course and not getting the same grade you’d have surely earned in an easier course.

It is counterintuitive to me that we should want to increase rigor in our schools, and improve our students’ critical thinking, and then we punish them for taking that chance should they fall anything short of perfect.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by i RISE and Samantha Davis, Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: Who’s No. 1 in the class? Rankings being eliminated. http://bit.ly/hyKtJF [...]

David Sims

February 5th, 2011
12:57 pm

I partly agree with AJinCobb. The SAT is a good measurement of the extent of a student’s learning in the skills required to answer its questions and fulfill its tasks. That, basically, is math, reading, and writing.

My very best subjects in high school were math and science. I took all the hard classes, and a very gracious teacher, Mrs. Johns, volunteered to teach me calculus, which at that time was not on the curriculum. Because of that, I went straight into honors calculus in college. I took advanced physics and advanced chemistry from Mr. Davis, in whose classes I was so enthusiastic that he called me down once and reminded me that HE was the teacher and that I was a student. Were math and science the only measures of student ranking, I might have been in first place.

Alas, there were social studies: psychology and history/civics. Gobbledygook and lies. I never was much good with either of those. Oh, I passed them easily enough. But I was content with a B.


February 5th, 2011
1:12 pm

I graduated from a Gwinnett County school in 1997, I don’t know if this is still the policy or not, but whatever grade we earned in an AP class had 10 points added to it, so if you earned an 85, a 95 was recorded or if you earned a 94, a 104 was recorded. We were ranked on our G%A, not our GPA. I can say, I graduated with an A average (on their old 92-100 for an A) ranked the last person in the top 25%…. of course teachers hadn’t really started inflating grades at that time either. I worked my tail off for that ranking with some truly top-notch students in my class.

Ed Johnson

February 5th, 2011
1:15 pm

“Were math and science the only measures of student ranking, I might have been in first place.”

Good example of why ranking is a farce.

Sports is a game. As few winners as possible and as many losers as possible, by definition.

Education should not be made a game, but ranking turns it into a game. Again, Erica gets it.

Ranking in education signals a cognitive laziness in response to the complex problem of getting as many winners as possible and as few losers as possible. So, rank ‘em! So simple, isn’t it?

East Cobb Mom

February 5th, 2011
1:18 pm

I don’t think the problem is with ranking graduates, the problem is that some parents care way too much about it, and then their children pick up on the parent’s obsession and care too much as well. I did not spend my high school years worrying about class ranking, and I have no intention of obssessing about my childrens’ rankings, either. I will be satisfied if they take challenging classes, work hard, do their best and are ready for college when they graduate. I really hope I’m not worried about what classes other kids take, and if those kids are ranked higher than my children.

My high school used a 4.0 based GPA for rankings, not the 100 scale that some districts now use. We did receive an extra point for AP classes, but nothing for honors classes. I do agree with schools adding .5 for honors classes, but my high school did not do this, so those of us taking honors courses got no reward. Oh yeah, except for being better prepared for college classes, which is worth more than losing a few spots in class ranking to someone taking easier courses. I also worked part time in high school and was very involved in an extra curricular activity, which cost me a little bit in GPA, but worth the sacrifice.

I graduated somewhere between 10th and 20th in my class of 400-500. I can’t even remember, that’s how unimportant my exact class ranking was to me. Our high school ranked the top three tiers of GPA, maybe the top 20% in all, and then everyone else graduated in alphabetical order. There were a couple of kids in the top tier with me whom I had never seen in one of my honors or AP classes. Big deal. Congratulations to them for making almost straight As in their regular classes, but in the long run the kids who took honors and AP courses were, I’m sure, more successful in college.

The fact that colleges look at SAT scores and what types of classes a student took indicates that class ranking is not the only indicator of academic achievement and ability. That doesn’t mean students shouldn’t be honored at graduation for the GPA they earned. It’s getting to the point that no one can be honored for anything because of petty people who complain about anything that does not go exactly how they would like. Good grief.

Top School

February 5th, 2011
1:20 pm

@ David Sims I like your thinking…

The Northside is all about the locked jaw and student ranking…
I don’t know what they would do without the ability to rank their schools…and children. It’s what defines them in their social circles. It’s part of the baby boomer generation.
Polo Club…and Beamer…FAKE YOUR WAY TO THE TOP…BY ANY MEANS. Hopefully the next generation will correct this corruption and fix the unethical process of what is the most current adults view as “successful living”.



February 5th, 2011
1:29 pm

I graduated high school in Washington State. We had class rankings available to colleges – but I don’t think most of us knew our ranking until we requested it for college app’s. However, in order to be elegible for valedictorian you had to do an honor’s thesis. We called it “distinguished scholar” and we did volunteer hours and a project/thesis of some sort, and had a 3.5 GPA minimum. Then the faculty chose among the top few students and use their thesis to determine who gets the honor. Also, everyone who completed the program got “distinguished scholar” on their diploma.

Old School

February 5th, 2011
1:36 pm

@d … I hate to tell you this, d, but I graduated high school in the 70’s, and teachers were already inflating the grades of students that they liked.

Top School

February 5th, 2011
1:49 pm

They love to RANK their SCHOOLS…AND THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS …and their malls Phipps or Lenox…their city Northside and Southside Atlanta…their streets INSIDE THE PERIMETER…OUTSIDE THE PERIMETER…their fish Atlanta Fish Market and Bankhead Seafood…the nightlife Buckhead and Midtown…their shoes Manolo Blahnik and Payless…their cars Hennessy Lexus and Nalley…their thrift stores Atlanta Woman’s League and the Salvation Army…their variety store Richard’s and Big Lots…



February 5th, 2011
1:50 pm

re: “Any other ideas?” — Yes, learn to deal with the reality that there’s only one #1 anything at a time, and that not all things are equal. Not only learn to accept it but embrace it, and aspire to maximize your potential. If that’s #1, great. If it’s #47 but that’s what you were capable of, deal with it. Otherwise, poster “pc gone wild” pretty much nailed it.

Ted Striker

February 5th, 2011
2:03 pm

I agree with you, Maureen.


February 5th, 2011
2:03 pm

Respectfully @ Former Teacher (-interesting post)

“Solution: weighted classes. General-level classes, such as art electives, shop, phys. ed., — that is to say, classes that anyone can take and which do not have different ability groupings such as honors or gifted — get a max of 4.0, regardless of the subject. Honors or gifted, 4.2 or 4.5 or what-have-you”

I understand the point you are making, and believe the current
system of ranking students is sufficient, but I also see a bias
in the perception of the level of difficulty of shop classes.It would
be interesting to see how many AP students would find it challenging
to apply their math, science and English skills in planning, constructing,
or repairing something. How many AP students would feel confident in
designing, and building a china cabinet that is both functional and
aesthetically pleasing once constructed? Many highly educated people
also know very little about automotive repair, which if still taught in high school
is not an easy class. My point is that each class stands on its own merits in
terms of difficulty based on the particular strengths and weaknesses of the student.
The key with any ranking system is to acknowledge that information learned in the
particular curriculum must eventually be applied in life beyond standardized tests
such as the SAT. Using the SAT to determine class rankings would seem to lower
the standards of getting students to push the boundaries of their educational comfort
zone. Instead of taking more AP classes, more students might devote more time to
mastering the SAT test rather than mastering another subject in order to gain an
advantage as a possible valedictorian. I do think that eliminating the rankings is not a
positive step in the right direction (nothing wrong with good academic competition).


February 5th, 2011
2:06 pm

sorry about the format above – Not what I expected : )


February 5th, 2011
2:09 pm

Thirty-five years ago when I graduated from high-school, any class like P.E. home-ec, band , choir , typing or any class with “general” in the title were not considered for class rank or honor society. Only classes with substance like history , government, algebra , geometry , trig, biology , physics, english lit, humantities, all and any pre-college courses. Teacher would never inflate grades,most were quiet strict and very direct in what they expected from the student it was their classroom. Parents were involved , but not overbearing those were the good old-days. 3.87 GPA, 1320 SAT , 25ACT , and National Honor Society. I really did’nt know my class rank, the only thing I worried about was some jock getting the last scholarship instead of me.

Maureen Downey

February 5th, 2011
2:09 pm

@Equitas, You raise a good point as to which classes are toughest and by which standard we judge. In my own all-girl Catholic high school, admittedly long ago, there was no weighting of classes and no distinction between college prep and what we called “business.” Our No. 2 student was in the business track, which aimed at preparing students to work in offices as secretaries and administrative assistants right out of high school.
At our five-year reunion, she told me that she had decided that she had little room for advancement without a degree and was going to school at night for her college degree. I have no doubt that she now runs some company somewhere as she was both bright and diligent.


February 5th, 2011
2:15 pm

Whooooooo cares?

Write Your Board Members

February 5th, 2011
2:18 pm

One thing that some schools do, which I think is kind of cool, is that while they may have a Val and Sal, the speech is actually given by a student elected by his/her peers.

I do think that a student should have to be enrolled in the school for more than 2 years to be Val and Sal. High school rigor varies so much from place to place and I think students need to be ranked against their true peers in order for the ranking to mean much.

David Sims

February 5th, 2011
2:42 pm

Restaurants are ranked, too. Remember those stars? Three, four, five. Who wants to eat at a one-star restaurant? They probably don’t cook their pork enough.


February 5th, 2011
3:14 pm

Weighting the AP classes pretty well takes care of it and separates the men from the boys. (Although I’m not sure dual enrollment classes at a local community college should necessarily receive the same weight.)

My system just started a new rule that requires students to have taken at least 2 AP classes to be recognized in the Top Ten.

The situation at Etowah . . . I don’t know. Good arguments on both sides. Hate that the whole thing has devolved into what it has. I’m inclined to think, though, that surely that’s a one in a million kind of occurrence.

Patty McCahill

February 5th, 2011
3:48 pm

You are completely on target that the students are blameless and have done exactly what we want students to do!!
You are very correct in assuming that this situation was completely unforeseen and no parent would willingly walk into this mess. The worst really isn’t about us as parents, it is the stress that it is causing our daughter that is the most painful and disturbing. No 17 year old girl should have this much anger and hate directed at her for simply working hard and achieving academic success. It is a very sad and frustrating situation. “They wanted the best for their daughter and it wasn’t at anyone else’s expense.”, is completely accurate as well. Your point that we pay taxes and have every right to enroll our child is also completely correct. There was never any ill intent of any kind. Our daughter set her sights on attending The Advanced Academy of West GA after learning about the program through the Duke TIP program at ET Booth (a Cherokee County Public School she physically attended). We never looked at the policy of weighted grades and GPA calculations when deciding if the Academy would be best for our daughter. There was no intent to “game the system” as mentioned in today’s AJC.
You are also on target when stating what the true problem is. The difference between being enrolled and physically attending a school would not have been an issue in the past but it will only become more of an issue. Unfortunately my daughter (without intending to) is in a unique situation. Nobody that we know of has physically never attended the school even though they ARE enrolled as a student at the school, and achieved the highest GPA thus qualifying them to be valedictorian. Because someone does not represent the “ideal” or tradition that we have always thought of as valedictorian does not make them unworthy or morally wrong to accept the honor.


February 5th, 2011
3:50 pm

Why are we so concerned about these rat races?


February 5th, 2011
4:28 pm

Lee’s post at 11:41 is full of EPIC WIN!

Top School

February 5th, 2011
4:30 pm

I care more about the LEARNING PROCESS than the RANK or the …AWARD!
Success without HONESTY AND INTEGRITY…is not success no matter YOUR rank!

See the musical …BRING IT ON!…playing at the ALLIANCE THEATER! Go Top Girl!


February 5th, 2011
4:38 pm

I went to an extremely competitive high school (many of my peers went on to ivy league schools or other prestigious universities/colleges). I know things have changed since I graduated, but…
Many many students took AP courses and honors courses. There was no weighting of any grades *at all*. No one made any fuss about any of it. We didn’t know who the valedictorian was until after all grades were in (right before graduation, or maybe *at* graduation, in June) – so how does anyone – in February – have any idea who the valedictorian is? The year is not over. Or did I miss something?
The school *did* give us rankings, I don’t remember whether they used 9-11th grades or 9-11th grades *and* the first semester of 12th…
So whoever wanted to give a speech at graduation applied to do it and I suppose some teachers were the ones who picked whichever student (also probably looking at grades I suppose).
I liked that there were no ‘extra points’ for AP or honors classes (even though I took a few). Because your grades were your grades and that was that. If a college wanted to look at the difficulty of the classes you took – well, that’s what they were *supposed* to do – not look at just your grades, not look at just your rank, etc.
The SAT is a good measure simply because everyone is taking the same test. So it’s a way to measure student to student. It’s certainly not *the best* way, but it’s a way.
Why people are *so concerned* about rank is the strange thing. It doesn’t matter so much to the universities, so why is everyone up in arms.
If the policy of this particular school is odd – then they can change the policy in the future. Yelling about it now doesn’t seem to be the answer.


February 5th, 2011
5:26 pm

“The valedictory address generally is considered a final farewell to classmates, before they disperse to pursue their individual paths after graduating.” If someone never attended class and wasn’t a “classmate” to the members of the graduating class then they are not the appropriate person to address the class as they graduate. If they want to recognize someone for just having the highest grades then point them out but they haven’t necessarily earned the honor of being the valedictory speaker.


February 5th, 2011
6:04 pm

I think rankings are fine if they are transparent to the student and parents, and if they are given at every report card. Though, I much prefer what colleges do: Latin Honors. I’d rather see groups of honors (capped by percentages) depending on height of academic attainment. Academic honors help to distinguish especially high performing students from the rest of the school, ensuring that the top performers in a class get special recognition for their work.

Exact class ranking is controlled by so many subjective factors; especially teacher grading – sometimes it is confirmation bias, selective perception, stereotyping, etc. Group ranking would lessen these effects. And possibly thwart situations like the Etowah High situation. Both girls would obviously come out in the highest honors group.


February 5th, 2011
6:15 pm

Next stop, socialism.

Make us all the same, give us all the same grades (or force to a normal curve – that never has any controversy).

Then we can chart a path to communism. Everyone in DPNK is the same, right?


February 5th, 2011
6:23 pm

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Class rankings have their place and are probably more valid than averages. The problem behind the current controversy is a very short-sighted high school policy. Our high school requires cooperating colleges to furnish numerical grades for high school GPA purposes even though a letter grade appears on the college transcript. Professors are happy to oblige, and it avoids the over inflation of giving a 100 for each college A. My guess is that high school AP chemistry is harder than college speech, but that is part of the game. There is no end to this issue if one presses it. Is a 3.0 in engineering at Georgia Tech the same as a 3.0 in recreational studies at Valdosta State? Probably not, but students in both programs have to maintain the same GPA to keep the HOPE scholarship.


February 5th, 2011
6:23 pm

How about we let the BCS figure it out?


February 5th, 2011
6:29 pm

People who believe that public schools suffer from “too much competition” among students are laughable. Perhaps there’s not enough! If you as a teenager can’t handle the competitive “pressure” of public high school, how will you handle the significantly more competitive environments of elite colleges and grad schools (in your twenties), not to mention professional life (right after that)? We should be worried drop out rates, the quality of teachers, parental involvement, the work ethic of our students–ABSOLUTELY NOT the “over competitiveness” of our high schools. What a joke!


February 5th, 2011
6:33 pm

Well, if the present trend continues we won’t see grades at all in the next few years. Many systems are going to standards-based report cards which eliminate grades in elementary school. Middle school and high school standards-based report cards can’t be that far behind.

Many interesting questions are raised. Should school be about the learning and mastery or the grade that one can earn through various forms of subjective grading and grade inflation (bonus points, extra credit, credit for doing the homework but not actually knowing how to do it, etc)? I think we place too much emphasis on the effort (grade earned) and not necessarily enough on how much was learned. I taught a number of kids who learned a great deal in trig but only earned a B where some kids didn’t learn a whole (because they knew much of the material already) and earned an A in a lower math course. This is not to say one should be punished or favored over the other but the present system too often is fraught with politics and favoritism.


February 5th, 2011
6:34 pm

Ok in all seriousness. Rankings are, unfortunately, an American Institution. Everyone wants to be #1 but alas we cannot.What has happened in recent years is that instead of just taking it and working harder in the future we want to complain and whine and say its not fair. I don’t remember these girls names, nor do I really care. So, we have one girl take college course, and another one who is not, why not. She could be taking the college courses as well, couldn’t she? So why talk down on the college course taking girl, who in all actuality has a tougher course load then non-college course girl.

What will happen if the non-college course girl goes to say Harvard? she may be tops at Etowah, but she will be middle of the road at Harvard, how will she take that blow to her ego?


February 5th, 2011
6:37 pm

i went to a highly-competitive prep school that posts the highest average standardized test scores in the southeast every year (i’ll let you guess which). even as purportedly the “most competitive” school in the area, it was nothing compared to the competitiveness of my college and med school. i have never once wished it was less competitive since graduation. class rankings are ok. believe me.

Go Figure

February 5th, 2011
6:43 pm

Pretty much sounds like the petty reasons that parents gave for getting dodge ball banned. Wah!


February 5th, 2011
6:50 pm

Patty – you should definitely be proud of your daughter, what she has done academically is outstanding and she certainly is worthy of the title…That being said, simply being enrolled at Etowah does not make her part of the student body and she really should not be the one giving the address. Your family made a choice to paper enroll at EHS & send her to West GA – and it worked out very well. Laying claim to the Valedictorian title without ever physically attending Etowah, while not ‘morally wrong’, is certainly in bad taste.

South Metro Teacher

February 5th, 2011
6:50 pm

Life is competitive, and such a proposed policy that makes everyone “feel good about themselves” teaches kids nothing in the long run.
I don’t understand what is happening in society. Everyone in real life is NOT a winner…..regardless of how strong one’s self-esteem is.

Former Teacher

February 5th, 2011
6:50 pm

there was a good point raised in regard to my previous post, and I would like to clarify here:

I don’t discount that different courses are moer or less challenging for different students. That is a given. (Put my husband, for example, in a ballet class, and it would be interesting!)

What I envision is a system that takes every course that does not offer “levels,” should all be considered the same, and all have a maximum of 4.0 out of 4.0 quality points. But, for courses/subjects where students CAN ability-track to a general level, college prep, honors, gifted, AP, the more challenging courses should come with an incentive to take them. Particularly in this day and age, where scholarships are critical for so many students, we should encourage our kids to take the most academically rigorous courses they can handle, and not penalize them if their apsirations mean they earn less than an A. That doesn’t mean shop or art or dance or anything else is not challenging; AP Art History should also be weighted, by this logic.

As for the case it Etowah, I think it is akin to a student who lives in a particular cluster but is homeschooled, claiming valedictorian at the public school they would have attended. It seems a bit bizarre that you can claim to be the highest-ranked student at a school that you never attended. I hate to refer again to my alma mater, but we had a residency requirement that prevented us from ever encountering this type of problem. You simply were not eligible for valedictorian or salutatorian unless you finished at least your final two years as a resident of the brick-and-mortar school.


February 5th, 2011
7:02 pm

Funny that Ms. McCahill couldn’t have her needs met at a public school until her senior year, and then only as a “base” for using the dual enrollment program. Kudos to her for her accomplishments, but no one should be eligible for the valedictory unless they have had at least a full year (so It would have to go back to January of junior year) at a school.

I have recounted on an earlier blog how a girl from a “country school” transfered in her senior year with very good grades in some rather substandard courses. She even was caught cheating on her biology final her senior year, but was allowed to give the valedictory address (her parents threatened lawsuits of everyone). Her SAT was lower than about 10 people in the class. I didn’t mind too much being number 2–what goes around eventually comes around. But she should never have been eligible to be the valedictorian!

When I was in college, I transfered from one state capstone university to one in another state. I ended up with a 3.83 GPA, but could not be recognized for summa (or any honors designation) because I did not have at least half the credits at the second university (I finished in less than 3 years, with only 3 semesters at the second university, by taking terrible overloads–no AP back then!)

Neither of the young women should be harassed. It wasn’t their stupid rule-setting. People should be sending hate mail to the Cherokee BOE.

Reality Check

February 5th, 2011
7:02 pm

The high school my sons graduated from dealt with this more than 10 years ago. Students who were dual-enrolled and in contention for Val/Sal had to get the actual numerical grade. Professors can average grades if necessary. If that doesn’t work, then the high school should come up with a number for A’s, B’s, etc.assigned so everyone is equally weighted. Also–Val/Sal would have to be enrolled on the first day of their senior year and take at least one class on the HS campus.
Cherokee County Schools needed a policy in place before this stage. I find it hard to believe that someone in the counselor’s office wasn’t aware of this before this week. Being #2 is still wonderful, but the State of GA quit giving scholarship money to #2 several years ago.
Keep the class rankings!!! Our children have to learn to compete, not just nationally but globally. Parents from other countries are more concerned with successful students than their self-esteem. Competition is a fact of life, from competing for college entrance, to competing for jobs and promotions. We are not honestly preparing them for life by suggesting they all hold hands and sing “we are all valedictorian, we are all valedictorian…”


February 5th, 2011
7:16 pm

Don’t you think football ratings should also be stopped?