North Carolina High School Board Votes to Stop Naming Valedictorians

May 22, 2016 Updated: May 22, 2016

High schools in one North Carolina county will no longer name a valedictorian because it’s not inclusive enough, reported the News-Observer newspaper.

North Carolina’s Wake County school board last week voted to change the way schools rank children at graduation. Under the mandate, school principals can’t name valedictorians and salutatorians, which are the top two most prestigious positions in a class and are based on grade point average. It will be implemented in 2019.

The new system will recognize seniors with Latin titles, including cum laude if they have a GPA of at least 3.75.

Board members said the change allows students to take more courses they’d like rather than ones that would boost their class rank and GPA.

“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 final approval of the policy change is slated for June 7. However, state law will require Wake County schools to record class rank on students’ college transcripts.

Students with a GPA of 4.25 or higher would get the distinction summa cum laude, while those with a GPA of 4.0 to 4.249 would get a distinction of magna cum laude.

“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.”

Critics have said the board is attempting to be politically correct with the change.

“I love competition,” Benton said. “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.”