Editor in Chief
The MCPS school board made a choice in the spring of 2013 to repeal and replace the Nationally recognized title of Valedictorian and replace it with a Medallion Medal, a decision that would go on to affect every academic class from 2018 on. While not only depriving students of tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships, this choice also diminished the value of work students have put into their educational careers.
Students from the beginning have been misinformed of the requirements, the school has procrastinated its efforts to create the new award along with implementing it upon the Senior class of 2018 without finalizing the selection process of the “Highest honor given to any MCPS student,” from the 2013 criteria brief for selection committee.
The school board has made this decision without asking the students or families if this change was needed or wanted. While this honor allows students to set themselves apart from their peers and be recognized for their well-rounded efforts, it does not hold the same weight and accolades that come with the title of Valedictorian, resulting in many potential 2018 Valedictorians to say, “It’s just not fair.”
The medallion was created to replace the title of valedictorian, an honor awarded to the student normally with the highest grade point average, and gives the final commencement speech for the graduating class before diplomas are handed out. Unlike most schools Sentinel awarded multiple valedictorian titles because of an unweighted grading system allowing for multiple students to tie with a 4.0 by the end of their senior year. This resulted in anywhere from 4-16 valedictorians from the graduating class.
Yet as Principal Ted Fuller said, “We don’t have a true valedictorian. When you look at the definition of valedictorian, it finds its origin in a weighted grading system.”
However there is no standard definition for valedictorian, as many schools across the country use different systems of grading, rewarding students for taking more rigorous courses, and have varying systems of grading scales. Additionally it is not a requirement for the valedictorian to be the student with the highest GPA.
This newly established title is not recognized outside of the MCPS district, if you were to put Spartan Medallion on your transcript or resume it wouldn’t hold the same weight as the nationally recognized title of valedictorian. Valedictorian is not only used by the U.S. but it is also used internationally by countries including Canada, Central America, and the Philippines. So is it fair to replace this traditional and highly revered honor with an award that doesn’t even require the same academic achievement?
Senior and potential valedictorian recipient Jamie Seifert said, “If you put anywhere on your resume or for colleges nobody is going to know what it is or care. Whereas valedictorian, even if you don’t like it, carries with it a sense of pride. People recognize that when you’re getting into college, or getting a job.”
The decision made back in 2013 came with general requirement for the individual school to decide upon what students would need to do to achieve this award. With components of community service, activity participation, and high academic achievement, these outlines were given to school after the decision was made, allowing schools to determine how their school would give out the award. Meaning that even though the title means the same across all MCPS schools, the standard for achieving it was different from each school.
Another valedictorian candidate Grace Stayner said, “It seems that it means a little less because you’re recognized as the same but for different things, but you could be great at one school, well rounded, but not the same outside of the school.”
While this new award is not only recognized for achieving different accolades in each school in MCPS, Sentinel High School is implementing a changed and unfinished award to the class of 2018. The senior class was presented with an initial award requirements at the beginning freshman year, consisting of 30 logged community service hours, maintaining a 3.92 GPA, a required five AP or Dual Credit courses, three years of foreign language, and documentation of participation in extra-curricular activities or clubs.
Then during our freshman year we had a change in principals, as Fuller joined the staff.
“The ’13-’14 school year was when Sentinel created the first round of criteria, and when I became principal in ’14-’15 and looked at that original criteria, I realized it was not in line with the Board’s criteria, so I formed a committee in ’15-’16 to develop this (current) criteria,” Fuller said.
The new criteria has made it easier, and harder, for many students to attain this title. With an increase to 75 community service hours, adding eight teacher evaluations, and now requiring a minimum of six participation points (sports, academic programs, and performing arts) for all applicants, all while maintaining an even lower GPA standard than valedictorians did or that the original draft required with a current 3.75 instead of a 4.0 or a 3.92. It creates a ridiculous amount of unneeded documentation to receive a reward that students didn’t want in the first place, yet with no other option, students begrudgingly apply for this award.
Senior Paige Childers felt very strongly about her view that the medallion, “Favors rich people that have money to do stuff outside of school vs. poor people who lose an opportunity.”
Childers believes students who do not have the time or the ability to participate in extra-curricular activities in and outside of school lose out on the ability to receive this award. Childers also said the replacement “makes me feel like there is no point in trying because you’re telling me that what I did and what I worked for doesn’t matter anymore because I was able to do other things.”
Childers would have received Valedictorian status for maintaining her outstanding 4.0 GPA through her four years of high school.
It is not right to implement this award on the class out 2018, as seniors from the beginning have been misinformed of what the award is and have lost out on a traditional and prestigious title that is actually recognized and understood outside of MCPS.
The first draft stated “We invite you to sign on to an exciting four years of challenging work.”
With the fact that this award has changed during our four years at Sentinel, it is not right to apply it to our class as we did not have the full time to attain it. This award should have been put into effect with the newest incoming freshman class after it had been finalized, not on to the senior class that had already been attending the school for two years.
Furthermore, even if the School Board wanted to implement a new award such as the Medallion Pledge, why then must valedictorian be removed? Why cannot both titles be recognized? What harm is there with retaining a nationally recognized title earned for achieving a high grade point average?