One of the most important goals for some highly motivated high school students is to become the class valedictorian.
More often than not, this means maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average throughout high school. From the first day of freshman year, they try to ace every assignment and test to ensure those straight A's.
Their ambition is admirable, but a singular emphasis on grades is misguided. The quest for high marks should never take precedence over the pursuit of knowledge.
At Richland High School this year, one of those ambitious students took a difficult online course in multivariable differential calculus at Stanford University, after mastering every math class offered at Richland.
The girl received a B from Stanford, which ruined her run for class valedictorian.
Now the Richland School Board is re-evaluating how the valedictorian selection process works. This particular student did not need the credit and took the course to challenge herself. Such an admirable effort should have been acknowledged and encouraged.
Instead, it became a disappointment and a warning to other students who might want to stretch themselves academically.
School board officials are aware that some students may avoid pushing themselves if it means losing their dream of becoming class valedictorian -- which would be a shame.
The board plans to discuss the situation with teachers and students before making any decisions. That's a smart approach, but creating a policy that's fair to kids needs to be the board's primary goal.
Other districts should watch closely.
Currently in Richland, students considered for class valedictorian must have the highest grade point average in their class and have taken at least one advanced class, such as an Advanced Placement class. Also, every grade is counted, even if it is from a college-level program.
School officials need to find a balanced way to determine class valedictorians without punishing students who choose to take tougher courses outside the school district curriculum.
Including teachers and students in the discussion is imperative. They know better than anyone else what standards would be fair.
Deciding who is deserving of the honor isn't an easy task. Some graduating classes in the Mid-Columbia include several valedictorians.
On the surface, it may look like grade inflation is at work. If that's the case, adjustments to the system should take place.
But we shouldn't jump to conclusions just because more than a few valedictorians came out of one group.
It is possible for several determined students to have the same goal of becoming class valedictorian -- and for them all to have the gumption to make it happen.
It happened this year at Kamiakin High School, for example, when eight students finished with perfect scores. From what we know of these kids, their A's were justified.
The Richland School Board should research this issue thoroughly before making any drastic changes. Fairness is paramount.
After all, for some students, graduating as a valedictorian is a very important dream.