I was never the smartest kid in school. I’m not even sure I’m the smartest person in the room right now, and I’m alone in my office as I write this. But I think those who excel above and beyond academically should be recognized as such.

And that’s why I agree with the Huntsville High School’s committee’s recommendation that the school go to the standard single valedictorian.

To catch you up to speed (and for those who missed our story on 1A), the school considers any high honor student who has above a 4.0 GPA a valedictorian. The high honor student with the highest GPA of 4.0 or under is recognized as salutatorian. This year, that led to 12 valedictorians at the Huntsville High School’s graduation ceremony.

The recommendation – which was immediately frowned upon by board members – was to align Huntsville with other schools and recognize only one of each: the high honors student with the highest GPA as valedictorian; and the high honors student with the second-highest GPA as salutatorian.  High honors students with a GPA of 4.0 or above would be considered and recognized at graduation as a “Graduate of Distinction.” The board voted to table the issue.

Perhaps it’s because I was never in contention for that honor in the first place, but to me it seems like a no-brainer: the student with the highest GPA should have a distinct honor and title separate from their peers.

One argument that was presented Monday was that removing the title from the other students could impact their college admissions chances. But according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, colleges have considered class ranking to be less and less important each year and are instead relying on other factors, such as GPA, ACT and SAT test scores and college preparatory courses taken during high school. According to the association’s annual report for 2018, only 9.3 percent of colleges surveyed considered class ranking to be of considerable importance; 27.9 percent considered it of moderate importance; 36 percent considered it of limited importance; and 26.7 percent said it wasn’t important at all.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t honor and recognize those students who put in the work to break through the 4.0 ceiling – they certainly deserve the credit, and probably still deserve a few minutes at the podium of graduation to speak in front of their classmates, as well. I also think they should get to keep that honor. But the best should be rewarded. Academics, aside from Quiz Bowl and similar clubs that compete against other teams, shouldn’t be competitive – that’s what the athletics department is for – but we should give credit where it’s due, and that means rewarding the students who stand out academically above the rest.

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