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Maryland School Board Votes To Change How Students Become Valedictorian

A Maryland school board barely passed a policy Wednesday where being honored as valedictorian and salutatorian will no longer be based on grades alone.

Anne Arundel County school board voted 5-4 to allow qualities like leadership and character as factors of consideration when deciding top honors, the Capital Gazette reported Thursday.

Students who complete seven semesters of high school and achieve summa cum laude recognition will be eligible to apply for the honors. The superintendent will decide who becomes valedictorian and salutatorian out of this select group. Class rank will not be calculated under the new policy, however.

Those in support of eliminating class rank want to either represent English as a Second Language (ESOL) and special education students who generally do not take honors and advanced placement classes or have students focus on interests rather than numbers, the Gazette reported.

“Because they choose these programs or came into Maryland not speaking the language of English, they are told their education is not valued,” Board Vice President Josie Urrea said, according to the Gazette. “Because of that, they are hurt by class rank.”

Those against the elimination believed students would get the wrong message.

“Heck, why give grades at all?” board member Bob Leib said, the Gazette reported. “I’m convinced that competition is healthy, academic stress is meaningful, and course selection is a student’s choice and we should not criticize that choice.”

Board member Julie Hummer voted against the proposal thinking it would be too subjective, according to the Gazette.

The Daily Caller News Foundation asked every board member if the new policy could turn into a popularity contest.

“It does not need to be, nor should it be, a popularity contest,” board member Melissa Ellis said to the DCNF.

Ellis added that subjectivity exists in sports, college admissions, job applications and promotions, but wants the selection of valedictorian and salutatorian to be “as objective as possible.”

“This is in no way an ‘every child gets a trophy’ policy,” Ellis said.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools administrators are currently working on regulations to address the application process, board member Terry Gilleland told the DCNF.

The policy affects students entering the ninth grade in the 2021-2022 academic year.

Urrea, Hummer, Leib and board members Eric Grannon, Michelle Corkadel and Candace Antwine did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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