The What's What About High School Who's Who Books (2022)

The What's What About High School Who's Who Books (1)

The letters start arriving at the homes of high school students in early spring.

They’ve been nominated to Who’s Who Among American High School Students, which “is a very special honor” achieved by “only 5 percent of high school students across the country.” Or named to the National Honor Roll, which means “you have attained a level of achievement shared by a very small percentage of all students in the U.S.” Or have become an All- American Scholar, “which represents the elite scholars across our nation.”

Thousands of students send in their biographical sketches, and sometimes their pictures, too, for publication in the annual books. And many proud parents and grandparents eagerly fork over $40 to $60 for a copy of the tomes.

“This important historical registry will serve as a permanent record of your accomplishments that will last forever,” says the All-American Scholar Web site.

In addition, the publishers offer to send news releases listing nominees, which are sometimes published verbatim in local newspapers. And they say nominees are eligible for college scholarships.

But skeptics say the publications are little more than appeals to vanity and are hardly the impressive honors the publishers make them out to be. Besides accepting nominations from high school teachers and counselors, the publishers also pitch to students whose names are acquired from lists compiled by marketers, critics say.

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“They are trying to sell books,” said Marybeth Kravets, a college counselor at Deerfield High School in Illinois, who says students and parents often ask her about the sales pitches from student- recognition programs. “I tell parents to think hard about how they are using their children’s future college funds.”

Ms. Kravets notes that the publishers do offer at least some scholarship money, and that no one is required to buy the books to be included. But she advises against including such honors on college-admissions applications.

“To admissions people, these things are not going to be an important factor on a student’s application,” she said.

Jon Reider, the director of college counseling at San Francisco University High School and a former admissions officer at Stanford University, said he advises students to simply toss out the sales pitches. He believes the publishers thrive on the myth that “you can earn certain credentials and join the American meritocracy.”

Recent discussions on, an Internet listserv for student and parent questions about college admissions, were even harsher in their assessments of student-recognition programs. “I definitely wouldn’t use it on an Ivy or other selective school application, unless you are trying to intentionally create the impression you are a naive bumpkin,” said one recent posting.

Said another: “The few people I know who have these kinds of Who’s Who and Honor Roll books grow more and more embarrassed by the books over the years.”

Teachers’ Book

Perhaps the best known of the programs is Who’s Who Among American High School Students, which is unrelated to the publisher of the 105-year-old Who’s Who in America reference book.

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The high school book was started in 1967 by Paul and Ann Krouse, a suburban Chicago couple who say on the company’s Web site that they wanted to counter the negative image of teenagers in that era by recognizing “high-achieving, goal-oriented students.”

In 2001, the Krouses sold the company, Educational Communications Inc., to Castle Harlan Inc., a New York City-based private equity firm that also owns the high school yearbook company Taylor Publishing and Commemorative Brands Inc., an Austin, Texas-based concern specializing in class rings. ECI is now part of Commemorative Brands.

Jefferey Fix, the general manager of ECI, said he has heard the criticisms of student-recognition books for years. But he said his company takes pride in its products.

“I think educators understand the program and what we are trying to achieve with it, which is to honor and recognize students and encourage them to go on to higher education,” he said.

The company has awarded more than $3 million in scholarships since its inception and now awards about $250,000 per year. The awards have traditionally been $1,000 per student, but this year ECI will give a few $6,000 awards, Mr. Fix said.

Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported that ECI purchased names from the National Research Center for College and University Admissions, a Lee’s Summit, Mo.-based company that asks teachers to give students a survey seeking names, addresses, grade point averages, and other data. ECI acknowledged to the Journal that it had obtained student names from National Research. Mr. Fix declined to delve further into that matter.

Besides its flagship student book, which costs about $55 if a student’s picture is included, ECI has added other titles over the years, such as a high school athletes’ edition and Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. The latter volume, first published in 1990, is made up largely of teachers nominated by recipients of the student honor.

The teachers’ book also puts ECI in somewhat more direct competition with Marquis Who’s Who, the publisher of Who’s Who in America, Who Was Who in America, and other volumes. Marquis, which is now part of the Anglo-Dutch publishing giant Reed-Elsevier Inc., has also published a volume called Who’s Who in American Education, which includes not just teachers, but also other educators and policymakers.

Who’s Who in American Education has been on a hiatus since its 1996-97 edition, but the company is publishing a new volume later this year, said Fred Marks, the senior managing director at Marquis Who’s Who, which is based in New Providence, N.J.

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“There have been requests to bring it back, and we want to be involved in such a publication because of the growing importance of teachers and education,” he said.

The company distances itself from what it considers the vanity publications on the market by stressing the wide acceptance of its Who’s Who books as library reference volumes. But it acknowledges that there is also a market for selling its books to those who make it into them. The new Who’s Who in American Education volume will sell for $235, Mr. Marks said.

Asked if there have been trademark or copyright disputes over the use of “who’s who,” Mr. Marks said U.S. courts have ruled that the phrase alone was common enough in the language that it could not be protected. But Marquis has gone after competitors who came up with products such as Who’s Who in the United States (as opposed to “America” in Marquis’ title), and ECI once successfully sued the publisher of a volume called Who’s Who in High School Football.

No to Joe Blow

Name recognition, or confusion, appears to be a subtle part of the plan for some publishers.

The nonprofit National Honor Society warns on its Web site that some schools have confused it with National Honor Roll, a for-profit concern based in Washington.

On its Web site, National Honor Roll says that anyone concerned whether “this is a valid program” can call its offices with questions. A representative told Education Week last week to e-mail questions to the publisher, Lynn Romeo. She didn’t respond.

At All-American Scholar, which is published by a Lexington, Ky.-based company called the United States Achievement Academy, manager Robin Tomlinson said: “We’re well known around the United States. There’s nothing we’re trying to hide.”

She said the company does not buy student names from marketers’ lists and accepts only those who have been nominated by educators or were on their schools’ honor rolls.

“Teachers get strict criteria to follow,” she said. “It just can’t be Joe Blow.”

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The All-American Scholar books sell for $59.95 with a picture included, Ms. Tomlinson said, with some of those fees going to cover scholarships. The company says on its Web site that it has granted more than $740,290 in scholarships since its inception in 1980, or an average of about $32,000 a year.

While the sales pitches for student-recognition programs reach a new cohort of students and their parents each year, some families are just saying no.

David Loutrel, a father in Anchorage, Alaska, recalls that his daughter, Sarah, received nominations last year for Who’s Who Among American High School Students and National Honor Roll.

“We held on to them about as long as it took to read over the letters and then drop them in the trash can,” he said. “Everyone likes it when their kid gets an honor. But when that honor comes with a price tag, it is sort of amusing.”

The What's What About High School Who's Who Books (2)
Mark Walsh

Contributing Writer, Education Week

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Mark Walsh covers education law and the U.S. Supreme Court for Education Week.


Who is Who Among American High School Students? ›

Who's Who Among American High School Students was one of three publications produced by Educational Communications, Inc. (ECI). ECI was part of American Achievement Corporation (AAC), located in Austin, Texas. AAC is one of 7 companies owned by Fenway Partners, based in New York City.

Who's Who program? ›

Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, for over 60 years, is one of the most renowned honors programs in the nation. It recognizes upperclassmen who combine a strong academic background with leadership skills evidenced in extracurricular involvement in campus and community activities.

Who's Who Among Students? ›

"Who's Who" is a nationally recognized award. Over 2,300 college and universities in the U.S. select outstanding students to be named for this award. Generally, seniors are selected based on leadership ability displayed in the areas of scholastic aptitude, community service, and extracurricular activities.

Who's who America? ›

Who's Who in America: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women, first published in Chicago (1899), is issued biennially, thoroughly revised. It is considered the standard, authoritative work of contemporary biography for the United States, and it has included, since 1974, some prominent…

Who's Who membership? ›

With over 500,000 members, the Who's Who of Executives & Professionals is one of the premier selective networking forums in the world. Our vast membership spans across 190 countries with professionals, executives, and business owners of almost every industry.

What kinds of Programmes do the who work on? ›

Through our work, we address:
  • human capital across the life-course.
  • noncommunicable diseases prevention.
  • mental health promotion.
  • climate change in small island developing states.
  • antimicrobial resistance.
  • elimination and eradication of high-impact communicable diseases.

What is UCA Purple society? ›

It is an honor to be named to Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. Since 1934, the National Who's Who program has recognized outstanding campus leaders for their achievements.

What is the whos who award in college? ›

Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges is a special award for students who have demonstrated particular ability in any number of areas.

Who's Who legitimate? ›

In addition to legitimate reference works, some Who's Who lists involve the selling of "memberships" in fraudulent directories that are created online or through instant publishing services. AARP, the University at Buffalo and the Government of South Australia have published warnings of these Who's Who scams.

Is Marquis Whos Who legit? ›

yes sure, Marquis is the premier company in biographies, I have been selected in Marquis for years and never paid nothing. Marquis Who's Who is completely reputable, and does not charge for listing.

How much does it cost to be in Who's Who? ›

There is no cost to be included in the registry." But when a Heritage sales rep calls and tries to sell you a plaque, leather-bound book, or a special program of three press releases (to send to your local newspaper), then the fun begins.

WHO's WHO publishers? ›

Who's Who Publishing is a monthly publication which recognizes Executives and Professionals for their accomplishments and contributions to the global marketplace. The registry serves as an outstanding resource for networking and consulting, and is a significant third party endorsement.

What is the professional WHO's WHO network? ›

Professional Who's Who is a national publication and community of top executives. Each candidate is selected individually, giving them the opportunity to represent their industry and profession. Once listed they will be featured among thousands of accomplished professionals.

How many members does the WHO have? ›

Working with 194 Member States across 6 regions and on the ground in 150+ locations, the WHO team works to improve everyone's ability to enjoy good health and well-being.

What is the main role of the WHO? ›

It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.

WHO works for the WHO? ›

Our team of 8000+ professionals includes the world's leading public health experts, including doctors, epidemiologists, scientists and managers. Together, we coordinate the world's response to health emergencies, promote well-being, prevent disease and expand access to health care.

How would you summarize the principles of the WHO? ›

The data principles of the World Health Organization (WHO) provide a foundation for continually reaffirming trust in WHO's information and evidence on public health.
  • Provide impartial and inclusive consultation. ...
  • Secure storage and processing. ...
  • Apply human rights and the right to privacy.

Who's Who publications? ›

“Who's Who” references are publications that generally contain biographical information about noteworthy people. Many are highly reputable, and some are published by professional organizations to recognize outstanding achievement in their field, using very selective parameters.

Who's who or who's who? ›

Who's Who (or Who is Who) is the title of a number of reference publications, generally containing concise biographical information on the prominent people of a country. The title has been adopted as an expression meaning a group of notable persons.

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A fictional young woman from Montana is causing raised eyebrows in Southern Delaware: Earlier this summer, the heroine of Emily M. Danforth’s edgy, sexual coming-of-age novel, The Miseducation of Cameron Post , was deemed too foul-mouthed, too racy, and possibly too gay for incoming freshmen at Cape Henlopen High School.. The Cape school board, citing parent complaints about the book’s liberal use of the word “fuck,” struck Cameron Post from a summer reading list, prompting both praise and outrage within the tiny coastal community.. At Cape Henlopen High School, where surfer kids from the coastal communities of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach mingle with the children of farmers, this year’s 314 incoming freshmen were given the Blue Hen List and required to pick one of the 10 books, read it, and write an essay over the summer.. On June 4, a district parent emailed board members and district officials “shocked and appalled” by the Blue Hen List, and Cameron Post in particular.. Initially, the Cape school board cited four-letter words as its rationale for removing Cameron Post from its reading list.. One board member, Roni Posner, argues that this should have been a reason for the school board to recommend the book—not pull it from the list.. “It would have been so helpful to me,” says board member Roni Posner—who, like Cameron Post, wrestled with her sexuality as a teenager.. “The term ‘age-appropriate’ is widely used as a proxy for the values and beliefs I want to impart to my kids, and how much I want to control them.”Posner was the lone dissenting vote on June 12, when the board decided 6-1 to remove Cameron Post from the list.. The ACLU letter alleged that the board not only violated Delaware’s sunshine laws (measures intended to ensure open governance) by failing to notice a vote on Cameron Post for the June 12 meeting, but also violated its own policy regarding challenged materials (which requires, according to the ACLU, a review by librarians and teachers).. The board met again on July 24, and that’s when members voted to restore Cameron Post to the list of recommended reading—and then “remove” the Blue Hen List altogether.. Instead of working from the librarian-curated recommendations, they declared, students could fulfill their summer reading with any book they chose—from Cameron Post to, presumably, Fifty Shades of Grey.. Over the summer, the local bookseller Browsabout Books had trouble keeping copies of Cameron Post on the shelves after the board’s decision.


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