“When did we start saying that we should limit the honors so that only one person gets the glory?” asked Jericho High School Principal Joe Prisinzano in Winnie Hu’s article “How Many Graduates Does It Take To Be No. 1?” 

This year Jericho will have not one, but seven valedictorians.  Each will have only 30 seconds for personal remarks, and the bulk of their time on stage will be spent together performing a ten minute skit on their collective high school experience. 

While I think that having multiple ‘farewell sayers’-the literal translation of the Latin ‘valedictorians’-is a fun idea, eliminating class rank is a bad move that will harm top students, particularly those at mediocre high schools. 

I graduated from Canton High School, a Massachusetts public school that was decent, but not ranked at the top.  My classmates and I were very open about our grades and class ranks.  We were competitive with one another, but the competition was friendly.  I remember high-fiving people in the hallways when we got back our SAT scores, and after tests we talked about our grades and which study strategies had worked the best.  We shared study guides in Biology class, and as our college acceptances rolled in, we listed them on our math teacher’s whiteboard and cheered for one another.

I was not valedictorian, but I think that knowing my class rank motivated me to perform better than I would have otherwise.  Pressure and competition motivate many students to get good grades, and class rank signals to colleges which students performed best.  Grade inflation, on the other hand, undermines the value of those credentials.  It removes an incentive to work hard, and robs top students of proof of their hard work and intellect. 

Rather than protecting mediocre students from the realization that some are performing better than they are, schools should focus on helping them improve. 

In response to Hu’s question, “How many Graduates Does it Take to Be No. 1,” I emphatically answer, “ONE!”