222 valedictorians

Valedictorian honors went to 222 students — about 20 percent of the graduating class — at three high schools in Dublin, Ohio, reports the Columbus Dispatch. One high school alone had 96 valedictorians.

Every student with a grade point average of 4.1 or above was a “valedictorian.”

High school grades predict earnings

High school grades matter — not just for college success but also for adult earnings — concludes a University of Miami study published in the Eastern Economic Journal. A person’s grade-point average in high school predicts the odds of starting and finishing college and graduate school, the study found. It also predicts earnings 10 years after high school.

one-point increase in GPA predicts a 12 percent jump in earnings for men, 14 percent for women, reports the Washington Post. It also doubles the likelihood of completing college, the study found.

Average earnings in adulthood vs. high school GPAAfrican-Americans were more likely to go to college and graduate school than whites with similar GPAs and background characteristics, said Michael T. French, professor of health economics, who led the research team. It’s possible “African-Americans with relatively high GPAs are more motivated and determined,” he speculated.

However higher high school grades didn’t lead to higher earnings for black adults, the Post reported. Limited opportunities for minorities or a choice to go into lower-paying fields could explain that, French said.

Too few engineering majors?

A former colleague thinks the Washington Post‘s graph is too neat to be real. Here’s the University of Miami researchers’ graph, which seems to have the same data arranged horizontally.


Dhara Patel will graduate from a rural Florida high school with a 10.03 GPA, due to weighted grades for AP and community college courses. (I’ve never heard of a weighted “A” being worth more than 5 points.) She’s already earned an associate degree. Patel is active in student government and high school clubs and volunteers at a local hospital, reports TakePart. And, yes, she’s the valedictorian.

Soldier earns valedictorian honors

After working 12 hours a day as a hazardous materials specialist at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, Army Staff Sgt. Dysha Huggins-Hodge studied in the computer lab, determined to complete an associate degree at Anne Arundel Community College on schedule — and to earn A’s. Now stationed in Maryland, the 4.0 student gave the valedictorian speech at her graduation last week.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Women earned 62 percent of associate degrees and 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees in 2008-09.

Off-campus valedictorian

This year’s valedictorian at Etowah High School in Georgia never has attended the school. Kelly McCahill is on the class list at Etowah but attends the University of West Georgia as a dual-enrollment student. Her college grades count for more points than the straight A’s earned by Sydney Perlotto, who’s ranked first in her class since ninth grade.

At Etowah, Perlotto’s classmates have aired their protests on a Facebook page they’ve labeled “Team Sydney.” They’ve also circulated a petition, asking that county policy declare the school’s valedictorian and salutatorian be required to attend the school for some period between their freshman and senior years.

That does seem fair. McCahill’s enrollment isn’t really dual: She’s a full-time, residential student at UWG with only a nominal link to Etowah High.

Valedictorians multiply

Every straight-A student is a valedictorian at some high schools, reports the New York Times. Principals say it reduces competition and bickering over fractional differences in GPA. Critics call it “honors inflation.”

Stratford High School in suburban Houston gave gold honor cords to 30 valedictorians, about 6.5 percent of the class. Cherry Hill High School East in southern New Jersey picked a speaker from its nine co-valedictorians by lottery; the others got space in the printed program.

In Colorado, eight high schools in the St. Vrain Valley district crowned 94 valedictorians, which the local newspaper, The Longmont Times-Call, complained in an editorial “stretches the definition.” And north of New York City, Harrison High School is phasing out the title, and on Friday declared 13 of its 221 graduates “summa cum laude.”

Valedictorian honors are an “anachronism,” says William R. Fitzsimmons, the dean of admissions at Harvard.  “This has been a long tradition, but in the world of college admissions, it makes no real difference.”

I’d rather see schools replace “valedictorian” with an honors designation than name multiple valedictorians.  Let the honors grads who want to speak submit a speech and pick the best one.

Refugees and tweets

On Community College Spotlight: Iraqi refugees flood community college English classes; the  valedictorian took her first English class in 2006. Plus: college student suspended for disrespectful tweets.