The controversy over class ranking has as much to do with money as it does recognition.
Being named Valedictorian is an honor reserved for that member of a school's graduating class who has achieved the highest cumulative grade-point average in that class.
Make no mistake; it is a substantial honor based on a substantial achievement. The Valedictorian traditionally delivers a departing speech at graduation.
More than that, Valedictorian status alone can mean tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships from a number of state-run universities. In some instances, the status can mean a full ride. Hence, the race to the top.
Students, and parents in particular, know this.
Over the past few years - specifically since the advent of the dual enrollment program in the Warren County School District - there have been complaints that weighting college-level courses in grade point averages could catapult a student to the front of the pack of a particular school's senior class without that student actually having taken all of his or her credits at that school.
It leads to a concern that some students might shop class ranking by transferring between high schools. It also breeds suspicion that a student has shopped, and, in fact, hasn't.
Then there is the question of course selection as a calculated strategy to further class ranking, thus placing strategy ahead of academic consideration.
There is much more at stake here than special recognition at graduation.
And, that's a shame.
It's a shame that some university systems provide scholarships that essentially reward competition among students rather than rewarding a student for individual achievement, potential for excellence and need. It tends to assume that a student's potential for excelling in a post-secondary setting and going on to excell after graduation is related to how that student compared with other members of a particular graduating class.
As any parent facing a college expenditure not so far removed from the cost of a new home can tell you, the search for financial aid is serious business. The choice of a post-secondary institution is often decided by finances rather than academic fit.
For now, the Warren County School District continues to grapple with the almost annual controversy over class ranking, doing its best to treat all students fairly. This year, the board has decided that two Valedictorians may take the podium at a local high school in order to achieve that parity.