Two valedictorians are better than one in Cherokee County

When the controversy broke over which of two students would be Etowah High School’s valedictorian, the simple solution to many of us was to have two No. 1 slots.  In researching the issue, I found that some schools have had as many as 38 valedictorians.

Now, the Cherokee school board appears to agree. (See this new blog on the implications of multiple valedictorians for HOPE.)

Here is a brief summary of what happened in Cherokee: A private school student enrolled at Etowah to access an early college option offered to public school students. Because college grades earn higher points on the GPA, the private school student edged out an Etowah student who has been tops in her class since the ninth grade.

The prospect of Etowah’s valedictorian being a student who never stepped foot in the building or attended any classes there led to an uproar, a Facebook campaign and petitions. But under Cherokee policy, the young woman in college was the rightful valedictorian.

While the larger issue yet to be resolved is whether high school students in college classes deserve more points for their grades, the leadership in Cherokee came to the same conclusion that we did on the blog — keep the peace and go with two valedictorians this year. The proposed waiver has to read again next month before it is a done deal.

Congratulations to both young women for their hard work and their commitment to their educations.

From the AJC:

At its monthly meeting Thursday, the school board proposed waiving their rules this year to have co-valedictorians and co-salutatorians. They received a petition from 433 students, who believe the valedictorian should have attended the school. Students also asked that the valedictorian decision not be based solely on grade point averages.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog.

29 comments Add your comment

Georgetown

March 18th, 2011
3:22 pm

What other criteria do the petitioners think the honor of valedictorian should be based upon? I don’t understand this issue at all. I don’t really care who gets the award as it will make very little difference after high school, but I don’t understand the point of giving in to the petitioners. To me, this basically turns everything in school into a popularity contest. The better lesson here is that there are rules and policies that must be followed and, sometimes, life just doesn’t seem fair. It would give the students an opportunity to cultivate the skills to deal with the minor (very minor) setbacks life has to offer.

And the beat goes on...

March 18th, 2011
3:53 pm

I agree with Georgetown, except on one point. This is going to become a major concern now that valedictorians and salutatorians are guaranteed the HOPE scholarship regardless of what they make on the SAT (new rules state students must score a 1200 on SAT to be eligible for HOPE). A student in South Georgia has a math SAT score of 700, but only a 450 on the verbal section. Consequently, under the new HOPE rules, he is not eligible for the HOPE scholarship, but because he will be valedictorian or salutatorian, he will be eligible. I wonder if there are rules in place as to how many valedictorians a school can have. Theoretically, some schools could create criteria that make all honor graduates valedictorians, thus making them eligible for HOPE without worrying about earning a 1200 on the SAT.

a dad

March 18th, 2011
4:05 pm

I can understand the complaints from the student body when someone enrolled in their school only so that they can do the dual enrollment. Thus, this student never took a single course at the high school, and only HS credits she gets are from college courses she is taking at a college.

Perhaps the colleges should open up their joint enrollment program to non-public school students (maybe private school students are already eligible but not home schooled ones), too.

Yankee Prof

March 18th, 2011
4:20 pm

@ a dad: GA colleges and universities do allow duel enrollment to students from private high schools through the ACCEL program (and a few others, I believe).

There’s a couple issues involved, mostly related to accreditation of the school of origin. I do know that the onus is on the private secondary school to demonstrate compatability and that the enrollment process can be complicated and time-consuming, putting smaller privates at a disadvantage.

redweather

March 18th, 2011
4:23 pm

If a student chooses to attend a local college rather than the high school, I don’t understand why she can still be considered for any type of an award. If she chose to attend a private school rather than the public high school, she wouldn’t be considered for Valedictorian. Not much difference as far as I can see.

Catherine

March 18th, 2011
4:24 pm

Way back when, my class had 5 valedictorians. They all took the same classes and all got A’s. I don’t think we used numerical values then, just an A was worth 4 points, B worth 3, etc. And they were all brilliant kids. I think Cherokee did the right thing. All through school this girl thought she was tops, then this outsider comes in and takes it away. No matter how hard she worked she could never have caught up with the college grades when they are given a higher value. This looks like a reasonable resolution to the current problem. However, “And the beat goes on” makes some valid points about the future.

Really amazed

March 18th, 2011
4:45 pm

How do they know this yet?? Don’t they still have another quarter to finish?????????

Mom

March 18th, 2011
5:01 pm

I would like to see schools eliminate the valedictorian/salutatorian awards. There are too many variables involved in calculating gpa’s to be sure the process was fair.

I know its beating a dead horse, but at my daughter’s school there are a couple of students who have been in the top ten every year who take NO honors classes. They skip over the students who take honors and AP classes and get Bs or even low A’s. How can that be fair?

Last year’s valedictorian had a B (horrors!) in an AP class. One family (whose son had all As and wasn’t even third) went to the superintendent to complain because their son had all As, but fewer AP classes. It was scandalous because just the year before our district had changed the class rank policy to include the weights from AP courses in selecting Valedictorian. But many people were FURIOUS.

I thought it was silly. Lets honor all students who have excelled and are in the top margins–let’s say 2 percent or the top ten kids–something that includes everyone with all As and everyone who has a 4.0 or above. Its silly to split hairs over hundreths of a point.

Maureen Downey

March 18th, 2011
5:13 pm

@And the beat goes on, I think you are absolutely right. For kids who don’t have the 1200 but are near the top of their class, this will be an issue. I have to ask the governor’s office about this.
Maureen

Lee

March 18th, 2011
5:21 pm

This was an unusual situation and I think that naming co-valedictorians is the most equitable solution for all parties. Now, however, the student who probably would have been Salutatorian has a gripe…..

Ashley

March 18th, 2011
5:21 pm

When I was in high-school if you didn’t take challenging or college prep courses you were not considered an honor student. Taking easy courses may have gotten you a high gpa , but it did not qualify you for the National Honor Society, valedictorian or salutorian. Hard work was rewarded , mediocrity was not. This decorum of rules was in place once you enrolled as a freshman, so everyone knew where they stood…. beside those students who were not college bound didn’t really care , they just wanted to graduated. Sorry but a A in pre-algebra or general science doesn’t have the same weight as AlgebraII/Trig. or physic. Even in 1976 the administration had the foresight to know that there would be student who took the easy road.

And the beat goes on...

March 18th, 2011
5:41 pm

Thank you, Maureen. I am really curious about this. Local boards of education have policies that list the criteria one must meet in order to be valedictorian or salutatorian, but these policies can be easily changed. I believe there are 183 school districts, and if HOPE is offered to all valedictorians and salutatorians (which I don’t have a problem with at all), then there would be 366 students who would be automatically eligible for HOPE. However, if a district were to amend policies to allow an individual school to have as many as 5 or 10 valedictorians, then all of those students would be given the HOPE scholarship. Again, I wish all students who have worked hard and earned high marks could receive the HOPE scholarship, but that would defeat the purpose of changing the criteria for receiving HOPE. In fact, if I were a member of a board of education, and the state criteria for HOPE eligibility is worded in a way that gives HOPE to all vals and sals, I would definitely want to change school policy so that high-achieving students, regardless of SAT, would receive HOPE. Surely there is a state definition of “valedictorian,” but if there isn’t, I foresee lots of trouble ahead.

Catherine

March 18th, 2011
5:52 pm

Back in the 80s when my kids were little their babysitter told me that her principal would not award valedictorian to a girl no matter what her grades. It seemed that he ruled that high school as if he were king and he made the rules. I don’t know if she got her story straight or not, I didn’t know any other kids in that school, but the principal retired before my kids went to high school, thank goodness.

Ashley

March 18th, 2011
6:01 pm

@Catherine from one woman to another, it seem that old fart was jealous and just needed the right young lady to sue his behind. All the experts say that girls do much better in school than most boys, I guess we’re always trying to prove ourselves and usually don’t give up when the going gets tough.

another comment

March 18th, 2011
6:02 pm

This is also where the one size fits all diploma fails as well. Sure my kid and many others could take on-level general classes and just take the 22 hours required and have a staight A average. But then again you would be doomed to only getting in the Georgia Southerns, West Georgia’s, Georgia Perimeter’s etc.. How are they going to score a 1200 on the SAT unless they are just naturally have a 120 or higher IQ because that is what it equals. But they would be bored as my child reports she was when she took the mandated Health class with the 11th and 12th grade repeaters who came in occasionally or wasted, she got the A, they slept. They thought it was too much work to do a weekly food diary. They were stunned when she did hers in a power point and in colors. They has excuses.

My child takes AP and Honors classes so she can apply to Ivy league and top 20 schools. Not so she can do dual enrollment and get an easy A at a non-research university school that doesn’t even use SAT or ACT scores for acceptance criteria.

I went to school in New York where you took Regent’s classes and then Regents exams it was before AP, if you were college bound. Now they include AP in this track. You had to be a Regents track student who had passed the Regents exams in your junior year at that high school to be valdictorian or saldictorian. I wasn’t either. My niece, lost out and came in 3rd because she took too many AP classes. But there are no on level students considered they are in another diploma track, the General diploma track, they go to Vo-tech school for a 1/2 day in their junior and senior year.

Ernest

March 18th, 2011
6:02 pm

Just out of curiosity, because there will be two valedictorians, does that mean there will not be a salutatorian? I know some school systems that do this. It seems that if salutatorians are also guaranteed enrollment to a GA college, one should still be designated.

Maureen Downey

March 18th, 2011
6:02 pm

@Catherine,

In a variation of that: My Catholic school awarded two top honors in eighth grade, one based on citizenry and one based on spirituality and devotion to the church. The citizen award was a check and the religious award was a medal.

I was class president and a regular letter writer to the local newspaper. I slept through sermons. My classmate Frank was an altar boy and planned to be a priest. He went to Mass daily.

I got the medal. He got the money.

Maureen

catlady

March 18th, 2011
6:13 pm

I’d like to see HOPE (and the valedictory) based on the grades only in certain classes. For example, the 4 years of college–prep English and math, plus 2 years of foreign language, history, and science, and at least one AP class with a 3 or higher. (it would have to be a small number of APs because, believe it or not, many schools only offer a few). There truly is too much grade inflation; I worked on a study in which every guidance counselor in the surrounding area was interviewed: All claimed NO grade inflation in THEIR school, but were SURE there was at the “school down the road.” LOL

Scholarships should be for SCHOLARS, but the rules should not be changed without a reasonable grandfather period.

[...] What if a school has multiple valedictorians and salutatorians? (See my last entry on the two Cherokee valedictorians.) [...]

Ashley

March 18th, 2011
6:26 pm

@catlady, thats the way it use to be in olden days, counting easy classes as I previously stated was unheard of. The only inflation I ever heard about in the 70’s was in my economics class.

student

March 18th, 2011
7:47 pm

@catlady – HOPE is only based on the core classes (4yrs English, Math, Science, Social Studies and Foreign Language). It doesn’t matter whether these are CP or AP. I like your idea of the students taking 1 or more AP classes and making a 3 or higher. That wouldn’t have changed anything at the high school I graduated from last year. Our valedictorian took (I think 17 AP classes and made mostly 5’s with a few 4’s). She was the State AP Honor girl student. Our salutatorian wasn’t far behind. Of course neither one is going to an in-state college right now either.

Rik Roberts

March 18th, 2011
10:23 pm

@student – HOPE does take into account AP classes by awarding an extra 0.5 points to the grade for purposes of eligibility requirements, except for an A.

My son and daughter were early enrolled and they did not get a bump for the classes they took at college like the AP students get. My daughter was tops in her class after 10th grade and went to Middle Ga for her Jr and Sr year. She had nearly all A’s but was not even in the top 10 because of the points awarded to AP students.

BehindEnemyLines

March 18th, 2011
10:24 pm

Yippee, let’s give everyone another participation trophy.

JAT

March 19th, 2011
10:21 am

I think they did the right and only fair thing. I wouldn’t want to be a senior at my graduation and ask “who’s the Valedictorian?…I’ve never seen or met her before.

[...] What if a propagandize has mixed valedictorians and salutatorians? (See my final entrance on a dual Cherokee valedictorians.) [...]

Mom

March 19th, 2011
12:12 pm

I wonder if the dual enrolled student will come to the graduation and speak. I think there is a possibility the other students and maybe even parents will give her a less than warm welcome. If it were my child, I would probably encourage her to skip graduation–its not like she knows the people there anyway.

Ole Guy

March 19th, 2011
3:21 pm

This is indeed a pleasant break from the usual back-and-forth/he-said-she-said/finger pointing issues surrounding mediocrity within the public education system. If the kid goes above and beyond in pursuit of quality education, by all means recognize her for her initiative, guts, and, above all, her exemplary achievements. If others feel slighted and offended, TO HELL WITHEM!

JAT

March 19th, 2011
9:21 pm

@Ole Guy…another words…what a great problem to have…a fight between two inteligent and outstanding students…

Welcome to Cherokee County… is this “problem” why many of us don’t support private school vouchers??

JM

March 20th, 2011
4:10 pm

Magnet schools in DeKalb have 2 valedictorians. There may be schools with more. And there may be schools with none. Its a silly criteria.