Valedictorian Distinction Being Removed From Schools

A school district announced they will be removing the valedictorian award in a growing case of schools across the nation ditching the title.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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Americans love a good competition, but not everyone is sure that rivalry is always best for students. Competition is found in every aspect of school, from cheer squads to football games, and even academics. A valedictorian title is one of the most coveted accolades in the world of academia. But more and more schools are ditching the prestigious title. Cherry Creek School District in the Denver area just recently announced they will be joining that growing list of schools ditching the coveted award.

In a letter sent to families, the Cherry Creek School District announced they will be eliminating the valedictorian title starting with the class of 2026. The district cited inconsistencies among other reasons for the removal. They also called the practice itself of naming a class valedictorian outdated. Furthermore, they said their decision was made based on the belief that all of their students can and should excel, claiming that learning should never be a competition. 

The School District received support for the announcement from the vice chancellor for enrollment at the University of Denver. Chancellor Todd Rinehart said that the removal of valedictorian statuses was a growing trend throughout the United States that he agrees with. “Nationally, class rank has been almost eliminated,” Rinehart said. Rinehart also pointed out redundancy in the title, as when students apply to colleges in the fall, they have yet to find out what their class rank will be. Rinehart says the University has never used that information in their admission review. 


There are plenty of others who share the belief that valedictorian titles and class ranking is an archaic practice for schools. And the reasons to support this are in plenty over the last decade. In 2017, a family of a senior Black girl sued a school district over her daughter’s valedictorian title. The girl had spent more of the year in top contention for the title before the school abruptly informed the family that she was actually a co-valedictorian. The lawsuit claims the district wrongfully altered grades and was showing racial bias.  

In 2019, The Boston Globe Published an extensive research piece diving into the lives of local school valedictorian graduates from the years 2005-2007. What they found was startling. Only one in four valedictorians had attained bachelor’s degrees within six years. A quarter of them inspired to be doctors, but none had earned that title. Nearly half of them made less than $50 thousand a year, and four reported being homeless. 

But not everyone agrees that the esteemed title should be removed from schools. Kristen Stone, a Cherry Creek district parent is against removing the valedictorian award. She says that taking the title away won’t fix the problem with competition. “It’s not going to fix the stress that we are seeing for other students, plus it’s taking away from those who want to work towards it,” Stone said. Other advocates for the title say it helps students learn to tolerate failure while continuing to persevere. 


But still, more schools are considering the removal, or already have. Some even call it an outdated practice. The history behind the origins of the award is in fact antiquated, dating back to the 18th century. The tradition for selecting a valedictorian dates back to The College of William & Mary in 1772. When English nobleman Norborne Berkely arrived in Virginia, he grew a fond admiration for the school. To show his appreciation, he put up a gold medal as the prize awarded to the student that showed the most skill in Latin written composition. The word valedictorian itself derives from the Latin valedīcere, which means to say goodbye. 

The Cherry Creek School district will continue to award the valedictorian title to the top academic achieving student for the next four school years before the award disappears.  The school joins a growing trend seen throughout the United States. And as more teachers, parents, and students express a need to address the growing levels of stress high school students face, there will likely be a slew of other schools across the nation joining in.