Alex Koetje, Illustrator
The Corvallis School District is set to do away with traditional recognitions for graduating seniors as they move to expand new measures of success, beginning with the class of 2025.
Families were informed via the 2021-22 Corvallis School District parent handbook that beginning with this year’s freshmen, the district will no longer recognize students as valedictorians or salutatorians during high school commencement ceremonies.
Instead, students will be recognized for a variety of achievements in areas such as bicultural literacy, performing and visual arts, athletics, leadership and community involvement in addition to academic achievement.
According to Kelly Locey, the CSD’s communications coordinator, the change was made administratively to better represent the district’s core values among other reasons.
“We know that academic achievement is only one measure of a student’s learning experience,” Locey said. “Recognition of a high school valedictorian can lead to unhealthy competitiveness of students and create additional pressure and mental health concerns.”
While some parents are skeptical about the decreased competition in classes to come, the main confusion seems to be why the specific traditional titles are being discarded.
Richard Arnold, a parent of two Corvallis High School graduates and one student still in school, said while he understands the decision and appreciates the push for diversity, he is frustrated by the lack of parent involvement in making the decision.
“I really think these kinds of things do inspire students and do have students work toward those goals,” Arnold said. “Why can’t we do both… I don’t see why we have to do away with one to accommodate the other.”
Locey said there will still be high standards for students to be held to in order to receive academic recognition, just no longer in the form of valedictorian and salutatorian. She also stressed that current students in 10-12th grade are still able to be recognized as valedictorian and salutatorian so long as they meet the established district requirements.
CSD Board Chair and President of the Oregon School Board Members of Color Caucus Sami Al-Abdrabbuh said he has spoken with families at recent commencement ceremonies where some of this increased recognition in areas such as robotics and arts have already begun. Al-Abdrabbuh said these families expressed how grateful they were to see students being recognized in these ways.
“The Corvallis School District core values really embrace the respect of students’ accomplishments and academic accomplishments, and also well-rounded graduates who have achieved success in different venues,” Al-Abdrabbuh said.
The upcoming change has not been localized to CSD though. Locey mentioned that South Eugene High School in Eugene, Ore. has opted to forgo the traditional academic recognition with a scholar recognition requiring an application and faculty recommendations.
Both the CSD administration and school board hope to see a healthier environment as a result of the shift, and they are ready to see more students’ achievements celebrated in a multidisciplinary way.
“I believe we need to continue encouraging that diverse representation and high standards of achievements that are representative of success in real life,” Al-Abdrabbuh said.