The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

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The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

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Valedictorian requirement contradicts school’s commitment to inclusion

Graphic by Ava O’Donnell
Students who have attended the school for less than two years can not be valedictorian or salutatorian. This requirement is a direct contrast to the school’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Imagine you have been an overachiever your whole life. You do your homework on time, and you study for every test as though it was a final exam. You stress about every missed question, every small error. 

Then, the summer before Grade 12 your parents move you to a new school. It was not your choice. Still, you have to say goodbye to everything you know. Goodbye to your school. Goodbye to your friends. And unbeknownst to you, goodbye to any chance of being a valedictorian. 

Our school requires a student to attend the school for at least two years, although the years do not have to be continuous to be considered valedictorian. The school implemented the requirement to create an equitable chance for all students since new seniors’ school experiences can vary, thus their grades are not comparable to returning students. This would make sense if “ all students” does not include those that join the school at the start of Grade 11.

The Valedictorian policy is only inclusive of a certain group of students and thus, goes against ASL’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. 

According to the school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion statement,  “The American School in London is committed to providing equitable access to all facets of school life.” However, the two-year policy excludes a group of people from being able to achieve academic recognition because of a family decision they had no control over. 

The High School’s reasoning for the requirement is that other schools can have different grading systems and offer different courses. For instance, some schools use a number-based grading system or use a letter system without pluses or minuses. In order to find if a new student met the valedictorian requirements, an administrator would have to contact the student’s previous school to find what “type” of grade the student received in each of their classes. 

It would be a lot of work for the administrator’s office to check each new senior’s previous grades. However, it would not be nearly as strenuous as the work many students put in to obtain the valedictorian title, nor would it be as stressful as moving to a new school for senior year. 

Another reason for the requirement is the variation in expectations and course rigor among different schools. Thus, it would be difficult to compare a student’s experiences from one school to another. Nonetheless, the same can be said about students at our school because valedictorians may opt to take different numbers of AP or advanced classes. 

For example, since the school does not weigh GPAs, the rigor of students’ courses are not fully taken into account when selecting valedictorians and salutatorians. Weighted GPAs are a scale used by some schools that take the rigor of the course into consideration. The harder the class, the higher the GPA would be scaled. By considering course expectations as a basis for disqualifying new students from becoming valedictorians, the school is making an assumption that other schools’ courses are less rigorous than any given class at ASL. This excuse also ignores the fact that these new students also maintained high grades throughout their senior year at the school. 

Ultimately, High School students who join in Grade 12 are still members of the community. By disqualifying new seniors, the school puts these students at a disadvantage to their peers. It implies that they might not have worked as hard.

To compensate for this, the school acknowledges new seniors with exceptional grades during the end-of-year high school awards ceremony, held the day before graduation. However, acknowledgment is not enough. There is a large gap between being recognized for your academic success and holding the title of valedictorian or salutatorian with the ability to put it on a CV or résumé. 

The school prides itself on its diversity and its desire to be inclusive, yet supports this unfair qualification. If a group of students are automatically disqualified from the moment they enroll here, it almost feels as though the award is predetermined from the start. 

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