Should Michigan Schools Phase Out Valedictorians?

An Ohio school is facing criticism for eliminating the honor, but one school in West Michigan has been doing it for years. Should other schools follow suit?

Female high school student giving a valedictorian speech

The title of senior class valedictorian has always held great prestige. Not only are you recognized for your years of academic success in high school, but you get to make a speech, put the distinction on your resume and bask in the glory of the hard-earned recognition.

It’s a title that many students aspire to achieve. But what if there wasn’t such thing as a class valedictorian? Would it take away from the high school experience for those who seek to graduate at the top of their class? Or could it actually make things better for high schoolers?

It’s a topic that has been in the news lately after an Ohio district decided to phase out valedictorians over concerns for students’ mental wellness. That district came under fire for the decision, USA Today reports.

Redefining success 

But one West Michigan school phased out the valedictorian honor 10 years ago and isn’t looking back. Orchard View High School, located in Muskegon, stopped using the title to avoid the problems it brought – like students taking easier classes to “pad” their grade point averages, WZZM 13 reports.

“We decided that we wanted to encourage kids to do better on the ACT or SAT,” principal Dan Bolhuis says in the article. Instead, now they have a “Senior Scholars” group based on GPA and ACT/SAT score – and any number of students can qualify for the recognition each year.

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It’s a better way to keep kids focused on taking classes that will prepare them for college instead of just focusing on getting the top GPA, the principal at that school says. And getting rid of the valedictorian title is apparently a growing trend, since students can experience extreme stress trying to qualify for the top spot.

Easing the pressure

Bolhuis told WZZM that students have dealt with less academic pressure and competition since the change. “It’s still based on a point system; you can say that this was the top person. But that’s not what it is about. It’s about being recognized as a Senior Scholar,” he says in the article.

Anxiety in young people is known to be a serious problem, and stress can be a factor. To help teens deal with stress and anxiety, experts recommend talking to a professional and considering strategies like cognitive behavioral therapy or mindfulness.

Do you believe schools should phase out valedictorians? Tell us in the comments.

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