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Top honors exert a negative influence on students’ mental health and prompt them to compete against each other, new study shows. Read about a high school’s plan to combat this and improve pupils’ wellbeing.

Mental Health Concerns Drive a School to Eliminate Top Honors

An Ohio high school has decided not to recognize salutatorian and valedictorian honors anymore. Their decision will become effective next year. According to school officials, the main reason for this step is unhealthy and harmful competitiveness among pupils, which is brought about by these two academic titles. Apart from this, the school will start using a GPA scale on which 5.00 will be the maximum.

Academy Mason High School

Mason High School stated that they had conducted year-long research before reaching their decision. They formed focus groups which staff, families, and students attended. And the results encouraged them to remove top honors in an effort to improve mental health among students.

As per the system currently in place, those who are able to obtain a C grade or higher in honors, Advanced Placement, or College Credit Plus classes receive a symbolic 0.3 points. These are added to their overall GPA, which they earn during the standard courses.

This particular school did not impose any GPA cap. Thus, students learned how to use this to their advantage. In other words, they would chase higher GPAs and not focus on other endeavors. Tracey Carson, a district spokeswoman, said that pupils would work on their grades during the summer. And they did not stop there. They would put effort into improving them during the year. One of the ways in which they did this was by signing up for more classes. Carson adds that they will use the same structure for GPA cap like some nearby districts.

Good News for Academic Achievers

Nevertheless, the school will go to great lengths to keep recognizing academic achievers. They do not want these changes to exert any negative impact on them. For instance, those who have a GPA of 4.00 and higher will earn a coveted summa cum laude honor. And students with a 3.75 to 3.99 GPA will receive magna cum laude. As for those with lower grades (from 3.51 to 3.74) they will obtain cum laude honor.

The school’s principal Bobby Dodd said that this recognition system would aim to reward those individuals who had genuine academic success. This would entirely rely on their accomplishments during the course of the year. He concluded that this would decrease the competitive culture that pervaded the MHS. Dodd hopes that students will focus solely on those classes that truly appeal to them.

These changes come after extensive research. The school even held meetings to allow students, staff, and families to voice their opinions. Now, the officials claim that universities are more prone to checking someone’s performance in a tough class. In other words, they are not as interested in class rank as one would think.

Also, students will have a chance to take AP, college-credit classes, and honors. In addition, Mason High School and Middle School will start their classes a half an hour later. This will be applicable starting next year. And the main reason for this decision is that they believe that later start times will lead to higher attendance. Lastly, this popular trend of changing or removing the valedictorian tradition is not a new thing. In fact, it has been mentioned by the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post recently.

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