Massachusetts Principal Bans “Honors Night” To Avoid “Devastating” Non-Honors Students

article-2296757-18D2FAE7000005DC-226_634x328For years, I have been struck by the trend in schools for recognizing everyone or no one in awards ceremonies. Last year, I watched an award ceremony where everyone not given any award for academic excellence was given an award at our public school. The same logic appears to be motivating Principal David Fabrizio of Ipswich Middle School in Massachusetts. Fabrizio has ended a long standing tradition of “Honors Night” because the failure to be part of it could be “devastating” to the students not receiving honors. He noted that some children do not have parents who are supportive at night and do not make honors due to poor home conditions.

I have seen the same view in both academics and sports with my four kids. I am supportive of giving kids recognitions for participation in school activities. However, I do not see why we cannot recognize top achievers. This is part of life. You work hard to achieve distinction. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. You have to learn to handle not just success but failure in achieving goals. I find it far more pandering and insulting to take the “everyone’s a winner” in everything.

Fabrizio’s motivations are commendable. I just disagree with his conclusion. He stressed “The Honors Night, which can be a great sense of pride for the recipients’ families, can also be devastating to a child who has worked extremely hard in a difficult class but who, despite growth, has not been able to maintain a high grade-point average.” Yet, school prepares students for handling the realities of life. I was often dominated in sports and, even in swimming where I worked the hardest, some kids simply were faster and received the lion’s share of honors. However, my parents taught me to keep trying and never give up. I learned to be happy for my classmates. Was I jealous, of course. But I learned not to take the award as a statement about me personally. I prefer that to creating an artificial environment where we downplay excellence.

This is a competitive world and these students will soon be part of it. Equalizing everything to the lowest common denominator does not seem a good environment for learning. Competition does not have to be personally devastating and school is a key time to show that there are a variety of ways to distinguish yourself. Rather than avoid such rewards, I think it is better to maximize the range of activities to allow students to find a good way to express themselves and excel. What do you think?

Source: Daily Mail

81 thoughts on “Massachusetts Principal Bans “Honors Night” To Avoid “Devastating” Non-Honors Students”

  1. No I was lucky. I know the value of hard work. I know that it pays off in one form or another. I am knowledgeable . I have intelligence. I don’t think others Are always wrong and I am far far far from arrogant. I learned that if I want something I can get it regardless of who I am or what other people say. I learned that no one has an excuse for not trying. I am LD . I made honors, it took awhile but I did. I had a goal and I reached for it. I didn’t let my poverty status or my disability excuse me from trying. Probably why I was a professional at 21 and had my masters degree at 25. So ya I was lucky.

    So mespo …..what did your work ethics get you?

  2. Pat,
    They were “rewarded” with the good grades. Thats what they “earned.” Awards ceremonies are probably a bad life lesson for the kids. I agree with what mespo said about the danger of making a young person arrogant and that it creates an obstacle they will have to overcome. I saw it with my older brother who was a very bright kid and the teachers praised him and told him he was going to be so successful simply because he was so bright. It doesn’t work like that at work. The praise and “rewards” he expected to get just for being bright did not happen and he was always demoralized and angry.

    Elaine made the point that the children getting these awards are mainly good test takers. Very few are geniuses who are going to shake up the world. The school might be ignoring the genius, actually.

  3. There are some honor students for whom school comes very easy. There are some children who try very hard in school who don’t make high honors. Not all children who are high achievers are paragons of virtue. Not all non-honors students are lazy lumps on a log.

    As mespo said–some children are fortunate to be born into
    the right families. Some children have to struggle more than others because of where they come from.

  4. Take it from those who have earned it for the “benefit ???” of those who have not.
    What is the logic for not rewarding people for their hard work because it might hurt the feelings of others who did not earn the recognition?
    This is the most about the most stupid decision by an administrator I have heard in a long time. He would destroy the incentive to achieve and not show non achievers that hard work will earn rewards. This guy is an idiot.

  5. The students who seemed to most need added incentives were those who were struggling. It’s too bad they didn’t get them.

    I did well in school and didn’t have to work all that hard. But there was one time when I needed an incentive. We started taking Spanish in 5th grade. It wasn’t in the least bit intensive. It was an elective after that. Those who continued took 1st year Regents in 8th grade. Early in 9th grade we were told that we could take the 2nd year Regents in January and, if we passed it, we could retake it for a higher score and take the 3rd year Regents. Now that was a carrot…no more foreign language requirement! With a bit of studying my grades gradually went from barely passing to solid B’s and A’s by January and stayed there until June. I passed both tests with ease. Without the possibility of getting 3 credits for that year’s work, I would have barely passed for the rest of the year and hated the subject.

  6. Kraaken:

    Funny the kid from he privileged classes gets points because of where he was brought up. his boss cares about his self-esteem and makes damn sure he’s happy. There’s two worlds out there my insightful friend and it’s society that let’s it happen. Another funny feature is that these privileged folks love dividing the rest of us with these ridiculous notions of pulling yourself up by your boot straps. They also love selling the promise of meritocracy for everyone but themselves.

  7. JT”Fabrizio’s motivations are commendable.”
    No, they are NOT. In this society, like it or not, some achieve and some do not. Our education system has already been ‘dumbed down’ far to much. Some schools have discussed doing away with grades so that some poor little saps all-important ‘self esteem’ isn’t damaged. Well guess what, kids. When you get out of school and you enter the workforce, your boss isn’t going to give a damn about your ‘poor self esteem’. You aren’t going to get extra points because you were brought up on the other side of the tracks. These ‘feel good’ measures do nothing to prepare the kids today for the realities of tomorrow, and that is, at least part of the job of the education system. Reality bites.

  8. Elaine,

    Having been in multiple programs across different systems, I can say that what you describe does indeed happen, but not universally. Mileage, as they say, may vary.

  9. My name:

    “I can’t believe that people are agreeing with this. I can understand agreeing if this isn’t the whole story, I don’t know , no one does except for the people involved, but for arguments sake, let’s say this is the whole truth. Why on earth would it be ok to punish students who try hard and achieve honors by taking away a special night meant for them? ”


    “I was lucky because my mom pushed me . She required that I did well, so I did. Kids today don’t have that. So ya maybe there is a couple students who try really hard and still can’t make honor roll, but there are definitely more students who do poorly because they don’t do anything at all. ”

    Not sure you were “lucky.” What you were was pushed to achieve. That’s ok but you lost all sense of proportion by developing an arrogance along with your achievement and that attitude was directly fostered by telling you how good you were and ipso facto how bad, lazy, stupid those who didn’t progress as fast as you were. That’s a handicap that takes a long time to overcome. The truest comment you make is “that you can’t believe ….” You can’t because you’ be been conditioned to believe you’re right and others are necessarily wrong. Wonder where that attitude came from mom?

  10. Jonathan, did you even read the column you cited? Nothing has been banned, honors haven’t been removed, nothing has been equalized. The students who did not receive honors have been invited to attend the ceremony at which honors students receive their recognition. Are you really criticizing the opportunity for honors students to be recognized by the rest of the student body, for the non-honors students to get a first-hand look at the accolades that they could have if they increased their achievement?

    Also, were you aware that they let the students who didn’t make the Varsity football team attend the games to watch? What an outrage! I trust you’ll be writing a Sternly Worded Letter informing the school that this, too, is the death of the meritocracy and that only people who earned a spot on the varsity football team should be allowed to attend football games. Band students who didn’t make All State Band should similarly be prohibited from attending the concert.

  11. My name & Jude,

    I’m reposting one of my earlier comments for you:

    I read the article in the Ipswich Chronicle. According to that article, top students will still be acknowledged at the school–but in a different way. The principal plans to honor the students in front of all of their classmates at the end of the school year. What’s wrong with that?

    Honoring Ipswich Middle School honor students
    By Dan Mac Alpine
    GateHouse News Service
    Posted Mar 20, 2013

    Ipswich —

    He’s being accused of “dumbing down” America on talk radio, but Ipswich Middle School principal Dave Fabrizio says he’s doing what’s best for his students.

    Fabrizio’s decision to change the way the school recognizes its honor students at the end of the school year sparked the controversy.

    Previously, Ipswich Middle School honor students were recognized in a separate, evening ceremony, which included inspirational speakers.

    This year, under the first-year principal, the honor students will be recognized in front of their peers during a daytime, school assembly at the end of the school year.

    The decision upset some parents, Fabrizio said, because they believed the change dropped the honors recognition ceremony a notch or two.

    Fabrizio disagreed and refused to change his mind and the story hit Fox News and then migrated to talk radio.

    “We had a situation where our best students were being honored exclusively away from the rest of the school. The problem was, those who needed that motivation weren’t there,” said Fabrizio, who hopes recognizing the honor students before the whole school will inspire other students to work harder and become honor students themselves.

    Despite the criticism, Fabrizio said he has received a “folder full of supportive e-mails.”

    Fabrizio stressed the decision to change the recognition ceremony included faculty, faculty leaders and the school council, which includes parents.

    “This isn’t the dumbing down of America,” said Fabrizio. “This isn’t everyone getting a trophy. The same kids who were honored before are being honored now.”

  12. I can’t believe that people are agreeing with this. I can understand agreeing if this isn’t the whole story, I don’t know , no one does except for the people involved, but for arguments sake, let’s say this is the whole truth. Why on earth would it be ok to punish students who try hard and achieve honors by taking away a special night meant for them? What message is that sending? Hey kids, dont try hard, it gets you nothing. Day in and day out I deal with the same problem. Kids who don’t do anything because they don’t care. Why don’t they care? Because no one gives them a reason to. Certainly not their parents. Oh I can take away recess but what does that do? Nothing. They go home and play and tell their parents how mean their teacher is . Th parents agree and bad mouth the teacher and the student learns that the effort to succeed just isn’t worth it. I was lucky because my mom pushed me . She required that I did well, so I did. Kids today don’t have that. So ya maybe there is a couple students who try really hard and still can’t make honor roll, but there are definitely more students who do poorly because they don’t do anything at all. We are taking away all incentives todo well in life. Really why try at all when you don’t have to? This is ridiculous . Just a bunch of poor sports ruining it for the people who put in the extra effort and get goo grades.

  13. Gene,

    One main problem that I found with “gifted and talented” programs was that they weren’t actually programs for gifted and talented students. In my school system, they were programs for bright students who did well on tests and academically in the classroom–and for the children of parents who made a big fuss if their children weren’t originally selected to participate in them. Many of these G&T programs often ignore students who are gifted artistically, are talented musicians, are adept with their hands, etc.

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