Letter: NCHS student calls for end to publication of honor roll

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To Mr. Dinan,

Imagine a world where students had their SAT scores and other personal information published on the Internet and in local newspapers. Imagine local moms gossiping over coffee about the smartest kid and poking fun at the struggling kid. Imagine the shame some students would feel if their SAT score was lower than that of their friends. Although our school abolished class rankings and our school newspaper stopped publishing senior college decisions, our school continued to publish its quarterly honor roll, exposing private and sensitive student information. and their academic performance throughout New Canaan.

I first noticed the ill effects of our school’s freshman honor roll at the end of my first term of high school. The transition to high school was particularly difficult for me, as I had left a private school and did not know anyone at NCHS, and this resulted in my academic performance, which was very poor. I was very ashamed of my bad grades and didn’t want my family or friends to know I was struggling because I knew I could do better for myself. After the honor roll was published, which I didn’t, I remember my mother and father reading all the names, including their friends’ children, and counting the number of honors and high honors, using it as a way of translating to me how bad it was not to have made it. I remember that night looking through the paper to see which of my classmates had better grades than me and made the honor roll, and I felt so defeated and embarrassed, knowing that not only was I doing bad at school, but that the whole town could see my failure. Seeing my name, not on the honor roll, was in no way a source of motivation for me and it ended up making me even less confident about my academic abilities. Plus, it made me feel incredibly isolated, as I was among the small percentage of people who clearly hadn’t made the honor roll.

I am not the only student to take issue with the way our school weighs the honor roll and displays it in the city newspapers. In a survey I sent to the NCHS student body, 41% of the 91 students who responded said they felt honor roll stress. These numbers should be alarming for our community, especially as we emerge from two extremely stressful years for students who are only beginning to recover from the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. My survey results also concluded that 63% of students agree that our honor roll is weighted. Under the status quo, students who take Advanced Placement (AP) and Honors courses to further their knowledge and challenge themselves are punished because these courses are not weighted in the honor roll. Naturally, because some of these classes are taught at the college level, student grades are usually lower, which is why colleges assess grades for these classes to accurately reflect the knowledge, effort, and ability of these advanced students. If the NCHS prides itself on preparing its students for college, shouldn’t our honor roll be calculated the same way a college admissions officer would?

To get another perspective on the matter outside of my Google survey and other research, I interviewed Mr. Gregg Sloane, an NCHS Teen Talk Advisor. Mr. Sloane told me that while working at a different school during the pandemic, he “had noticed an increase in stress among the student body over the past few years, at the previous school he worked, – coinciding with the pandemic”. I asked him if he believed that having an honor roll made public would be positive and constructive for students and their mental health or detrimental, to which he replied, “It would be very harmful for students. A public honor roll would cause even more stress and pressure from their parents, and allow parents to directly compare their children with their peers, raising their already high expectations for their children. Mr. Sloane is a trusted professional and understands the stress levels and mental health issues that teens face. His advice and his opinion are therefore very valuable.

Wouldn’t the publication of the honor roll take away a precious motivation from the students? Would that take away a reward for high-achieving students? You can ask.

In 2021, 77% of the NCHS student body made the Honor Roll, meaning the Honor Roll is less of an honor and more of an award for participation. The majority of students make the honor roll, so it does not accurately celebrate the top performing students, and instead singles out only a small portion of struggling students. The small boost of confidence that earning the honor roll can give a high-achieving student is far outweighed by the shame and embarrassment of the 23% of students who are likely to feel stigmatized and ashamed. In response to many critics of the end of the honor roll, who think the honor roll is a necessary competition for our students, I can cite neighboring towns: both Wilton High School and Darien High School, two very comparable and also very high. rank public schools, have made their honor rolls private. The privatization of the honor roll at Darien and Wilton has do not negatively affect student outcomes and the success of their schools. High-achieving students at New Canaan High School do not need the honor roll to reward them for their work, as these students are already reaping the benefits of their work, such as having the opportunity to join groups such as the National Honors Society and a much higher chance of getting into a top university. It is completely illogical to say that the top-performing students at New Canaan High School are motivated by a listing in the newspaper, not by their goals of being accepted into college or getting a scholarship. New Canaan High School claims to be trying to “de-stress” our school environment and culture and has attempted to do so by abolishing class rankings. If we are so determined to “afflict,” then why do we continue to use an honor roll and publish quarterly student grades in our city newspapers?

I urge New Canaan High School to end the honor roll, and if that doesn’t happen, I encourage new Canaanites to stop posting it in our city’s newspapers. The honor roll is clearly not working, and this is evident in the number of students who report feeling stressed, unhappy with the weighting of grades, and objecting to our honor rolls being displayed in the newspaper. . If we stopped displaying our honor roll, we wouldn’t be an exception, like many other schools like Darien have done, and if we ended the honor roll all together, we wouldn’t be either no longer the first school to do so. Students at New Canaan High School are extremely passionate about their studies and are some of the most motivated students in the country, and we clearly don’t need a divisive indicator to encourage their academic performance. The last thing students need in the midst of immense pressure and stress is school-sponsored shame.

As one of the best high schools in the state and nation, we should lead the movement to de-stress our schools and reduce toxic and unnecessary comparisons between students and their peers. The honor roll is outdated, disuniting and unhealthy for students. Moreover, it has not been shown to be effective in encouraging academic participation and improvement. A student’s academic record does not affect anyone but themselves, and I believe it is imperative that it not be shared without their consent, whether in a city newspaper or any other public forum. . To continue to display the honor roll is a dishonoring decision, and it will shame the minority more than the power of the majority.

Truly,

Alex Arnold
Junior NCHS

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