Graduate photo

Congratulations are in order to Christin Wilson, Zachry Hanlan, Hayley Kruse, Hunter Madison, Alexanaka Nabors and Jakob Palmer.

These graduating seniors finished at the top of their respective high school classes in St. Joseph's public schools (with a four-way tie at Central High School).

We know this because these schools released a ranked order of top 10 students, for a feature published every year in the St. Joseph News-Press. Other high-achieving students were recognized in Sunday’s paper, from 50 schools throughout the region.

It gets harder to tell who’s at the top of the top, however, because some schools don’t like to reveal that kind of information. For this newspaper’s feature, 1 in 5 schools chose to release student names in alphabetical order rather than a ranked order, based on a measure like grade-point average.

This is part of a national trend, with fewer schools picking a valedictorian and about half of high schools no longer reporting a class rank, according to the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Some schools are choosing college-style, Latin honors that create broader groupings of summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude.

One school in Tennessee, apparently wanting to confer one last round of participation trophies, crowned 48 valedictorians. Imagine how the 49th student felt.

We get it. You can’t sum up a student’s achievement and potential in one number, like GPA. That said, it’s probably a more accurate barometer than, say, whether your last name starts with the letter “A” or “Z.”

Look, students who finish ninth or 10th — or 20th or 50th, for that matter — have no reason to feel ashamed. They deserve recognition and are just as capable of going on to big things. We’re sure you’re looking at future doctors, lawyers, innovators and community leaders in this newspaper feature.

But schools that display squeamishness about a numerical ranking do a disservice in two ways. An everyone-is-equal mentality seems unfair to those who achieve the highest GPA through four years of hard work and sacrifice. Why not encourage that?

The state of Texas felt strongly enough about class rankings that a law promises that those in the top 10 percent of a graduating class are guaranteed admission into a public university.

In a broader sense, this trend sends the wrong message to students who are being sent out into the world. As adults, they will never be chosen for a job or promotion based on a random selection or alphabetical listing.

They will be ranked, judged, listed and categorized in everything they do, from here on out. Sometimes it’s fair, sometimes it’s not.

That’s the way it goes. Sometimes it’s a cruel world, so you may as well get them used to it now.