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'Academic Signing Day' Becoming More Popular in Schools

In the current issue of Education Week, reader Sharon Washington wrote a letter to the editor called "Let's Celebrate Academics, as Well as Athletics," where she essentially calls for an "academic signing day" along the lines of college football's "national signing day."

"Last year, in the school library, there was cake served and family, friends, and some teachers gathered for the 'athletic signing' of our high school star. ... I asked, 'Why don't we have a national signing period for prestigious scholars who earn a full ride to their colleges/universities?' "

Ms. Washington isn't the first to make such a plea. Regina Britt, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, made a similar suggestion in a column back in 2009, titled "We Need a National Academic Signing Day."

"What student gets a TV camera capturing her signature to attend the University of Michigan to study medicine?
"What senior gets on talk radio for signing papers to enlist in the Marine Corps? No, he doesn't get a signing day even though he just signed away four years of his life to serve his country.
"Isn't that more important than becoming a linebacker for Notre Dame?"

A year later, Britt followed up with a column highlighting one school's academic signing day, and finished the piece asking why more schools don't take part in the academic festivities.

As it turns out, one school in Illinois got the message loud and clear. Sacred-Heart Griffin High School held its first-ever academic signing day just last week, and it's planning two more for later this spring. Solon High School in Solon, Ohio, and the Dallas school district also have instituted academic signing days since 2009.

And in Florida, a state law passed last year encourages districts to hold an "Academic Scholarship Signing Day" on the third Tuesday of April each year. (It's not mandatory, but encouraged.)

"The 'Academic Scholarship Signing Day' shall recognize the outstanding academic achievement of high school seniors who sign a letter of intent to accept an academic scholarship offered to the student by a postsecondary educational institution. District school board policies and procedures may include, but need not be limited to, conducting assemblies or other appropriate public events in which students offered academic scholarships assemble and sign actual or ceremonial documents accepting those scholarships."

Even President Obama caught the academic celebration fever. While hosting a science fair at the White House this past October, he suggested hosting academic champions at the White House, much like he does with champions of professional sports leagues.

"So we welcome championship sports teams to the White House to celebrate their victories. I've had the Lakers here. I've had the Saints here, the Crimson Tide. I thought we ought to do the same thing for the winners of science fair and robotic contests and math competitions. Because often we don't give these victories the attention that they deserve. And when you win first place at a science fair, nobody is rushing the field or dumping Gatorade over your head. But in many ways, our future depends on what happens in those contests—what happens when a young person is engaged in conducting an experiment, or writing a piece of software, or solving a hard math problem, or designing a new gadget."

Do you see an academic signing day in your school's future? Have you already seen examples of these in your district?

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