Some sense out of school boards

| November 14, 2007

When I first saw the headline on the front page of the on-line edition of the Rocky Mountain News — “No more competition: Boulder says bye-bye to valedictorians” — it sound like yet again a case of political correctness and self-esteemism run amok in our public schools. However, much to my pleasant surprise, when I read the actual article I found that the change actually makes sense:

A district committee studying the issue agreed to mirror colleges by recognizing groups of high-achieving seniors with summa, magna and cum laude honors instead of crowning a single valedictorian. The change is the result of a previous Boulder Valley decision to no longer calculate class rank.

“This honors more kids for academic achievement,” said Fairview High School Principal Don Stensrud, who co-chaired the committee. “It gives kids something to strive for.”

The district’s plan was presented at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. Because there’s no policy on valedictorians, a board vote isn’t required.

Before, each school decided how the valedictorian was determined. No high school allowed co-valedictorians, and the sole determining factor was a student’s grade-point average.

Those rules led to complaints in past years. Little separated the top 10, 25 or even 50 students at the district’s large, high-achieving high schools. For valedictorian, it often came down to hundredths of a point.

My own graduating class (Grossmont High School, 1971) had, as I recall, 10 people with 4.0 GPAs — and this was pre-AP, so there was none of this “5.0” stuff. I don’t recall off-hand if they named all of them as valedictorians (I wasn’t one of them; with a 3.91 GPA, I was way back in 19th place [OK, it’s really sad that I can remember that]). But given the arbitrary natures of some teachers and how they grade, I do think this is a good move, for a change. ..bruce..

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Category: Education, Main

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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