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DL School District considers ending ‘top 10’ honors for those graduates with highest GPAs

It’s been a long-standing tradition at Detroit Lakes High School that when graduation ceremonies get underway each spring, the 10 senior students with the highest grade point averages would sit front and center at their commencement.

But because many of their class finals would take place a mere day or two before those ceremonies took place, the “Senior Top 10” is often finalized just a few hours before the students walk across that stage to get their diplomas — and this year was no exception.

“As of right now, even two days before graduation, the Top 10 is not finalized,” said Detroit Lakes Schools Superintendent Doug Froke on Thursday afternoon.

This past fall, some questions were raised as to whether this created an unhealthy atmosphere of competition and uncertainty in the hours leading up to what was to be every senior student’s crowning achievement: walking across the stage to get their diploma at graduation ceremonies.

“Graduation is a celebration for all students who have successfully completed the requirements of high school graduation, as set forth by the local school board,” Froke said.

But adding an “11th hour” element of stress to that crowning achievement was a concern for some, he added.

“We (DL school administration) had some conversations this winter about discontinuing the Top 10 for this Saturday’s graduation,” he continued.

While the district does not employ the more time-honored practice of selecting a valedictorian (typically the graduating senior with the highest GPA) or salutatorian (second highest GPA), the Top 10 designation is something that has been in place for well over a decade.

The idea of discontinuing the designation met with considerable resistance from the soon-to-graduate seniors, many of whom had been working to achieve that “Top 10” status since their freshman year.

“We tried to work with the students and explain our rationale,” Froke said, but they were so upset that ultimately, “We just stepped back from it.

“Some kids put a lot of pressure on themselves to be in that top 10,” Froke said, and to suddenly change the practice halfway through their senior year was judged to be unfair to the students — thus the decision was made to continue with the “Top 10” designation for the Class of 2014.

However, he said, “There will be some discussions coming, over this summer and into early next fall, about the value of continuing with the Top 10 practice.”

Froke did add that the students with high GPA’s would continue to be recognized in some fashion — albeit a more subtle one. “We would continue to recognize them, just in a different way,” he said.

There are no discussions underway about eliminating academic competition among the students altogether, he said.

“The only thing we’re addressing is the graduation ceremony, because it’s a ceremony for all,” Froke added.

“All of these kids have one thing that they’ve achieved together, and that’s a diploma. That’s what we’re celebrating at graduation. … To create a situation of competition between them at that point, that is what’s up for question by the district.”

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454