You Might Not Need The Best Grades To Be Valedictorian

You Might Not Need The Best Grades To Be Valedictorian

There is no perfect way to measure knowledge and academic ability, but criteria such as ACT scores are not the way to go.
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Are you a fan of standardized testing? No, I didn't think so. Neither am I. That is why I am surprised to find out that my old high school will soon use ACT scores and other unusual criteria as significant factors in determining who receives the honors of valedictorian and salutatorian.

Before I begin, I want to clarify that I have not yet delved into the details as to why my high school is making these changes. I am simply writing about my reaction to what I read in the updated handbook after hearing talk about the new rules. There is no doubt that the changes have been made for important and logical reasons; I simply want to share my opinion on why I believe titles such as valedictorian and salutatorian should be based strictly on GPA, and why standardized tests like the ACT are not fair measurements of knowledge and ability. I am fully aware that the traditional practice of using GPA to determine these honors can be a controversial topic.For instance, it has led to some schools having graduation classes with dozens of valedictorians at the same time. Another worry is that awarding these titles based on GPA prevents a collaborative school environment because of intense competition. While these are valid concerns, they are surely not the norm in most high schools. From what I remember as a valedictorian myself, they are certainly not concerns in the high school that I attended. This leads to my next point. Titles such as valedictorian and salutatorian are considered academic honors. Therefore, they should continue to rely solely on high school academics. That is not possible when relying mainly on ACT scores instead of GPA. The knowledge and academic performance from nearly four years of high school cannot be adequately measured by a mere three-hour test.

Another component of my high school's new requirements is that contenders for the titles must be a member of the National Honor Society. This seems to stray away from the academic focus. While academic excellence is an important value of NHS, other focuses such as service and leadership should not be tied to the title of valedictorian. Do not get me wrong- I think that all of NHS's values are very important and I was an officer in it myself, but I see it as a very separate honor from being valedictorian.

I should clarify that the new policies at my high school still require valedictorians and salutatorians to have a high GPA. Students must receive Summa Cum Laude honors in order to be eligible contenders, which means they must earn a 4.0 GPA or higher (up to a 4.5 GPA can be earned with honors and AP classes). This helps ensure that simply guessing well on the ACT is not enough, but for close contenders, it still results in largely a game of luck.

My personal experience might help explain why that is so. I took the ACT several times throughout all years of high school. I rented books about it from the library, took a prep course through the school, and even had a few private tutoring sessions at the end of junior year as a desperate attempt to score high. My scores steadily improved overall, which is the logical outcome. If the ACT is so good at determining academic abilities, though, why was my score on the reading section highest during freshman year? Flukes like that are not unusual phenomena--there are even students whose overall ACT drops after taking it a second time.

My highest score was a 32, which is fairly decent, but it cost quite a bit of money to get there. Not everyone can afford to pay for the ACT more than once, let alone to pay for tutoring. With tutoring, my own score jumped an entire four points within just a few months. Did I learn 4 points worth of material during those months? No. I learned the tips and tricks of the game, combined with a bit (or a lot) of good luck. Titles such as valedictorian and salutatorian shouldn't depend on either of those two factors.

Studying for the ACT is important for college admissions, and that is stressful enough as it is. Making the test a part of achieving the highest academic honor in high school is unnecessary. It is more important to devote time and energy to classes and extracurriculars rather than memorizing material that is routinely on the ACT right before the test.

You might be wondering what happens if eligible students have tied ACT scores, especially in a school with a few hundred students per class. There is a backup plan set up for that, a backup plan for the backup plan, and so on. What these plans consist of, though, is not much different than the ACT itself.

If there are contending students tied with the highest ACT, the valedictorian and salutatorian are determined by points earned from state testing. This is similarly problematic to the ACT. If students are still tied, then GPA will finally be the deciding factor.

While I doubt there will still be a tie after this, there are more backups. One includes choosing the individual with the most service hours submitted for National Honors Society. Maybe it is just me, but it doesn't seem right to claim the title of high school valedictorian or salutatorian because you complete more service hours than your competitor.

There is no perfect way to measure knowledge and academic ability. There probably never will be. I am certain, though, that criteria such as ACT scores are not the way to get as close to perfect as possible.

Cover Image Credit: Petya McNeal

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Why Your Grandma Is Your Biggest Blessing In Life

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There are many people in your life you are thankful for: Mom, Dad, siblings, cousins, best friends, teachers, neighbors, you name it. You are grateful to have people who constantly support you, who pick you up when you're down and love you unconditionally. But the one person who stands out among the rest of them is your grandma.

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Ever since you were little, you and your grandma have always had a special connection. Going over to Grandma's house for the night was something you looked forward to. She knew how to entertain you at your best and worst moments. No matter what you did together, you loved it. Being with your grandma wasn't like being at home or with your parents – it was better. You went to the park, made cookies, went out to dinner, got a “sweet treat" at the mall, played Go Fish, took a bubble bath for as long as you wanted and got way too much dessert than you should have. You did things you weren't supposed to do, but Grandma didn't stop you. Because at Grandma's house there were no rules, and you didn't have to worry about a single thing. Being with Grandma was the true epitome of childhood. She let you be you. She always made sure you had the best time when you were with her, and she loved watching you grow up with a smile on your face.

The older you got, your weekend excursions with your grandma weren't as frequent, and you didn't get to see her as much. You became more and more busy with school, homework, clubs, sports, and friends. You made the most out of your time to see her, and you wished you could be with her more. Although you were in the prime of your life, she mattered even more to you the older you both became. You were with your friends 24/7, but you missed being with your grandma. When the time rolled around, and you got the chance to spend time with her, she told you never to apologize. She wanted you to go out, have fun and enjoy life the way it makes you happy.

Reflecting back on these moments with your grandma, you realize how truly special she is to you. There is no one who could ever compare to her nor will there ever be. All your life, there is no one who will be as sweet, as caring, as sincere or as genuine as her. Even though you're all grown up now, there are things about your grandma that never changed from when you were a kid. She still takes you out for your favorite meal because she knows how important eating out means to you. She writes you letters and sends you a $5 bill every now and then because she knows you're a hard-working college student with no money. She still helps you with all of your Christmas shopping because she knows it's your tradition. She still asks what's new with your young life because hearing about it makes her day and she still loves you to no end. Your grandma is your biggest blessing (whether you knew it or not), and she always will be no matter what.

Cover Image Credit: Erin Kron

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College Admissions Should Not Be A Game Of Who Can Pay The Most, Legally Or Illegally

College admissions is supposed to be a fair shot for all kids, not a competition of who can pay the most to get in.

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My mother taught me that education is the most important thing in my life and that education always comes first. My mother taught me that in order to succeed in life I had to work hard and learn how to become something on my own. I was taught to use everything that my parents have given me to make a better life for myself. Through these values, I learned just how vital getting a good education is and just how hard I had to work to succeed academically.

Unfortunately, there are those entitled parents that believe that money can buy everything. Money shouldn't be able to buy everything, especially college admissions. However, recent events have proven that a good amount of money can buy admissions into elite colleges. College admissions are supposed to be a fair shot for all kids, not a competition of who can pay the most to get in.

Recently, a huge college admissions scandal has been unfolded that involves celebrities and big names in the business, including Lori Loughlin, the actress who played Aunt Becky on "Full House." Basically, through a supposed non-profit, known as The Key, wealthy parents were able to "donate" money to this "college counseling company." Through the "donations" made, The Key was used to bribe athletic college coaches and test administrators in order to benefit the children of the parents. Events like this make me question if working hard is even worth it since privilege is so pertinent in this country. It boggles my mind the lengths that these wealthy parents went through to get their kids into big name schools.

It's crazy to me how these families had the money and resources available to provide their kids with world-renowned tutors, prep books or athletic trainers, but they chose to cheat the system and bribe their way into college.

Rich, entitled and privileged kids get into these amazing colleges and take spots from deserving, unprivileged students, who have worked their entire lives and overcome several obstacles to get where they are. It's unfair and appalling. These children already have privileges beyond most people. There are kids that literally depend on going to college to have any kind of future for themselves. Buying your way through life eventually catches up to you and I hope that these families are persecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

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