Valedictorian Validation

By Del Stover

For decades, the tradition at high school graduation ceremonies has been for the valedictorian -- the top-achieving student in the class -- to offer a farewell speech to fellow graduates as they listen quietly in their caps and gowns.

That’s so old school.

These days, it’s not unusual for a high school graduation ceremony to honor a dozen or more valedictorians -- or none at all. At some schools, high-achieving students line up to make a few remarks at the podium with awards-show brevity. Elsewhere, no one is given a special moment under the sun.

This is not the most momentous issue in public education, but how a high school honors its top students -- and whether it reports class rankings -- is a surprisingly common one for today’s school boards. Indeed, every few years, the selection criteria spark controversy somewhere and spill over into the courts.

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