The decision by Spokane Public Schools to abolish the valedictorian system and traditional class rankings is defended as a way of reducing student stress (“Spokane schools will eliminate valedictorian system, class ranking,” The Spokesman-Review, Feb. 3). I understand the intent, but I think it does students a disservice in the long run.
When students enter the workplace, they will be assessed in one way or another, whether they like it or not. I know that some companies have eliminated stack rankings, but all workers from top to bottom are still evaluated. How do we prepare students for the realities that will confront them if we try to shield them? Critics will maintain that the self-esteem of students is damaged by rankings. But not everyone is capable of performing at the same level. The sooner they accept that fact, the better off they will be.
I think the real harm done to students comes from the belief that there is only one way to excel in life. In high school, such excellence involves academics. But it can - and should - also involve other fields. Some students possess talent in art, music, dance and woodshop. They deserve recognition as well. Yet if such fields were ever included, I predict such rankings would soon be attacked as well as harmful to student self-esteem.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.