A Farewell to Farewells

Mia Zanzucchi

If you’ve ever attended a high school graduation, chances are you’ve heard a valedictorian speech. The Valedictorian, derived from the Latin phrase vale dicere, or “to say farewell,” is traditionally the top-ranked student, and concludes the ceremony with a meaningful, reflective speech.

However, changing times calls for changing policies. Starting with the graduating class of 2014, both the historical valedictory speech as well as the whole entire class ranking system will become a thing of the past. Many colleges as well as other academic programs, ask for your class ranking because they like to see students in the top quarter, top ten, or top five percent of their graduating class. But of course, as a number of schools cease to rank their students, your percentile or class rank has become an optional field in many cases.

West Jessamine currently ranks students based on a point system spanning from the day they enter high school as a freshman, to the end of their senior year. There are four points when class rankings are calculated: at the end of both the fall and spring semesters for the junior year and the senior year. The points are calculated just like grade point average, although instead of an average, it’s a running total. High school credits earned in middle school do not count toward the class ranking point system. Students who transfer in from any other school, even East, after the start of the spring semester their junior year aren’t eligible for valedictorian.

But starting with the class of 2014, the Latin Honor System will replace class rankings. In 1869, Harvard College became the first college in the United States to implement this system. Used almost solely by American schools, the Latin Honor System has three levels of honor, as defined by Jessamine County Board policy. Cum laude, or “with honor,” magna cum laude, or “with great honor,” and summa cum laude, or “with highest honor,” (see below) will become the new valedictorian, salutatorian, and top quarter at WJHS.

Why the switch? Many find the class ranking system to be unfair. Often times, only a small margin separates the top quarter of a graduating class. Some students know how to play the system, and do so by taking easy classes to rack up points. A student might be soaring up the class rankings, but ignoring the difficult though rewarding Advanced Placement classes offered just to reach the top. West Jessamine High School Assistant Principal Dr. Scott Wells also adds that, because both East and West now follow the same system, a transfer between schools will now become easier.

Those on the other side of the tracks feel that the current class ranking system gives higher level students motivation to get better grades and to have a full, rigorous schedule in the hopes of achieving the coveted valedictorian and salutatorian honors. The opposed also agree that the Latin Honor System is essentially like giving out participatory trophies to both winners and losers alike. “The harsh reality that society refuses to accept is that, in fact, not everyone is a winner,” said one sophomore in support of the valedictory system.

But no matter the opinions or the reasons, come this June, the valedictorian speech makes its final stand at West Jessamine High School’s graduation, and the class ranking system will cease to exist in the Jessamine County education system. May the class ranking system rest in peace.

Level of Honor GPA Constraints
Cum laude  “with honor” 3.5 – 3.749
Magna cum laude  “with great honor” 3.750 – 4.099
Summa Cum Laude “with highest honor” 4.1 and higher



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