Valedictorian and Salutatorian titles will no longer be offered as GPA recognition during graduation

This May, the FHC Class of 2017 will walk across the stage and accept their diplomas, stepping into their new lives as high school graduates. The graduation ceremony is anticipated by seniors throughout the building, as it is the stepping stone into adult life. The ceremony has remained fairly traditional since FHC opened in 1956; however, one aspect of graduation will be changing in these upcoming years. Beginning with the FHC Class of 2020, the Valedictorian and Salutatorian titles will no longer be awarded to the top two students in the class.

This decision has been debated for years at FHC and across the country. While the tradition of honoring high-achieving students has been respected and performed for many years, the ability for students to obtain GPA boosts through AP classes has become increasingly unfair. This is the primary reason FHC decided to make the switch.

“It was starting to become an advantage for students who could take AP classes during the summer,” said FHC counselor Teresa Miller. “So, if there was a financial reason another student couldn’t take an AP class, they were at a disadvantage for the opportunity for getting those extra GPA points.”

A common method of receiving high accolades such as Valedictorian and Salutatorian is referred to as “AP Farming.” AP Farming entails taking as many AP classes as possible, whether that be during the normal school year, online, or during the summer, in order to obtain as many points of GPA boost as possible. However, as stated previously, that gives an advantage to those students who are able to pay for extra classes in order to obtain the award.

“It doesn’t make sense that everyone’s competing and it’s not necessarily a level playing field,” Miller said.

Valedictorian and Salutatorian titles are traditionally given to the two highest-achieving students GPA-wise. However, many FHC students achieve extremely high GPA’s without the recognition, given that they are unable to take extra courses or they simply do not want to partake in AP classes because they are not oriented around topics they are passionate about.

“Kids will take courses for the right reasons,” said FHC principal Steve Passinault. “In my mind, to take a course simply because [it will boost a student’s GPA] is the wrong reason to take a class.”

With the removal of Valedictorian and Salutatorian titles, students who may enjoy art and music classes may be encouraged to take those classes relating to their passions without worrying about the effect it will have on their GPA. Hopefully, students will be able to take classes they enjoy, therefore solidifying the value of education. On top of this, academic recognition is still being offered to those who acheive high GPA’s. Cum laude will be offered to those with GPA 3.3-3.7, Magna cum laude to those with GPa 3.8-3.99, and Summa cum laude to students with GPA 4.0 or higher.

The idea of taking away the titles of Valedictorian and Salutatorian is being met with relative positivity by students.

“[High school] is about a lot more than your GPA,” said sophomore Ava Hascall, a member of the final class to receive Valedictorian and Salutatorian honors. “[The school] is only honoring people by doing well in their grades, but there are so many other things you can do for your school to impact it.”

It is for the above reasons that Ava supports the decision to remove the titles, along with the unfairness that comes with enrolling in a large quantity of AP classes. Freshman Andy Travis shares a similar mindset.

“I think [removing the titles] is a good idea because not everything is based on your GPA,” Andy said. “Now there isn’t as much pressure to take AP classes, so hopefully [people will take classes that they are interested in].”

The concept of taking a class solely for the AP title is not a new notion to FHC students. While striving for a high GPA is encouraged at FHC, taking classes that appeal to the interests of students in order to learn something valuable is the top priority. FHC staff has hopes of students taking courses that they are genuinely interested in and striving to succeed on their own personal levels, rather than seeking recognition on a larger scale.

The students who manage to achieve awards such as Valedictorian and Salutatorian traditionally give speeches at the graduation ceremony. Since these titles are being removed, the staff is currently looking for alternative speakers for the 2020 graduation ceremony. Whether students will be elected by their class, appointed by staff members, or chosen from a group of applicants is still being discussed. If a student has an idea to alter the graduation ceremony, they are welcomed to share it with staff members.

“It’s the students’ graduation,” Passinault said. “It’s not my graduation or the faculty’s graduation, so it really is about the students. Not only would I be open to [hearing students’ ideas], but we won’t make a decision without students’ feedback and opinions on it.”

The way the graduation ceremony is performed will not be altered indefinitely until the 2020 graduation; however, there are some students who wish the change would occur for their class as well. These students are encouraged to speak to staff members about their opinions, and they may be able to change a tradition for the better.

“If there are students out there who want to participate in graduation, I don’t think it would hurt to propose something,” Miller said. “I think there is still going to be structure and tradition [in the graduation ceremony], but I don’t think it hurts to try to make something fresh and new.”

The removal of the Valedictorian and Salutatorian titles was a decision that was not reached hastily. FHC staff is looking towards a selection process that provides an equal opportunity to high-achieving students, and will hopefully change FHC for the better.

“Are there going to be disagreements? Yes,” Passinault said. “But we did involve students in the discussion, we involved parents in the discussion, we involved teachers in the discussion about the change, and it was supported very strongly in favor of [the removal] of Valedictorian and Salutatorian titles.”