High school valedictorians and salutatorians may be no more in Wake County, North Carolina, schools after the school board decided the titles are "unhealthy" for students.
High school principals will be barred from naming valedictorians and salutatorians — titles that go to the two seniors with the highest grade-point averages — starting in 2018, according to a new policy unanimously approved by the Wake County school board.
Should the policy be fully implemented, in 2019, a new system will be put in place that recognizes seniors by Latin titles, such as cum laude, if they have a weighted GPA of 3.75 or higher.
"We have heard from many, many schools that the competition has become very unhealthy," school board chairman Tom Benton told the News & Observer. "Students were not collaborating with each other the way that we would like them to. Their choice of courses was being guided by their GPA and not their future education plans."
The new rule, officials say, will allow students to take courses they are more interested in, rather than classes that just serve to boots their GPA. Final approval of the policy could come June 7 and, if it's approved, state law will still require Wake County schools to record class rank based on transcripts.
By moving to a Latin honors system, which includes summa cum laude for students with a 4.25 GPA or higher and magna cum laude for students with a 4.0 to 4.249 GPA, more students will be recognized for academic achievement, instead of singling out only a couple.
"We think it’s much healthier to set high expectations and high requirements for magna cum laude," Benton said. "The students now have a target that they can shoot for and if they achieve that they’re recognized for that."
Currently, most Wake County high schools name a valedictorian and salutatorian, who often make speeches at graduation. Benton confirmed the board is not considering using both the Latin and valedictorian and salutatorian systems.
Critics have accused the board of trying to be "politically correct" with the change, but Benton said that just isn't the case.
"I love competition," he asserted. "But there are competitions that you can measure very correctly and they do spur people on to bigger and better things."
"There are competitions that are much harder to have objective measurements and grading falls into that," he continued. "You’ve got the subjectivity of grades being determinate."
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