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Cherry Creek School District Says It Will Stop Recognizing Valedictorians

AURORA (CBS4) – A Colorado school district plans to drop the title given to graduating seniors with the highest GPA. Beginning with the Class of 2026, high schools in the Cherry Creek School District will no longer recognize the valedictorian designation.

CCSD has honored its highest achieving students, like Luis Vargas, for years.

Before he was pre-med at the University of Colorado Denver, Vargas was one of the valedictorians in his 2020 class at Smoky Hill High School. While a competitive student, his goal was never to have the highest GPA.

class 2020 Graduation Tassel commencement Graduates in graduation ceremony
(credit: iStock/Getty)

Vargas sought success so that one day, he could provide for his mother.

"My mom would always tell me that it's okay if I'm not the valedictorian, and it's not a big deal, but I also wanted to do it for myself," said Vargas. "There's also a stigma around Hispanic students in education. I feel like they're usually looked down on, or people think they're not the brightest. I wanted to break that mold."

In a few years, the valedictorian status Vargas takes pride in won't exist at his high school and others in the district.

In a letter to parents, CCSD writes:

"The role of the educator is to teach all of our students, not to rank and sort them. The practices of class rank and Valedictorian status are outdated and inconsistent with what we know and believe of our students. We believe all students can learn at high levels, and learning is not a competition."

Cherry Creek School District says they sought counsel from local universities to ensure they're in alignment with their admissions processes.

Todd Rinehart, Vice Chancellor of Enrollment at the University of Denver, agrees with the district's philosophy.

"At the University of Denver, we are not concerned with schools eliminating class rank or valedictorian recognition, as these are not factors used in our admission process. Many college and university admission committees stopped considering class rank years ago, as very few high schools still report a class ranking," wrote Rinehart.

Rinehart goes on to say when students apply for college, the status associated with valedictorian is unknown and has never been used by DU's admission committee.

For some students, who worked harder than their classmates for four years, being valedictorian is simply about the honor.

"If I did a lot of work to get A's and wouldn't be able to speak or get special recognition for it, that would let me down a little," said Vargas.

Since leaving high school, Vargas has grown to understand some things are more important than being number one.

"To be honest, my mental health was not the best when I was aiming for those high grades because I was very stressed all the time. Whenever one little thing nicked my grade, it would like cause me to go into a spiral," said Vargas. "Being Valedictorian has given me a lot of benefits, like scholarships, but I'm not sure if it's really worth the mental health things I went through in high school."

CCSD will continue to acknowledge academic achievements in other ways, like honor roll and cords, at graduation. The district believes they can still celebrate achievements, without ranking students.

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