Graves Co. High dropping valedictorian, salutatorian with Class of 2017; principal: dual credit program, weighted grade point scale key factors in decision

Mayfield Messenger, April 19, 2017

Graves County High School drops valedictorian, salutatorian

By Hawkins Teague

For the first time next month, Graves County High School will hold a graduation ceremony without naming a valedictorian or salutatorian.

Principal Matthew Madding said the policy was changed in the fall of 2013 to give students more diverse options for classes they could take. Prior to the change, it was necessary for anyone wanting to become a valedictorian or salutatorian to take several Advanced Placement (AP) classes to get the highest grade point average (GPA) possible, he said.

Dual credit courses, which involve students taking courses at Murray State University or West Kentucky Community and Technical College to earn college credit, also entered into the decision, Madding said.

"There are really two things that led to (the policy change)," Madding said. "The first thing is, we're a large school. We have a lot of different programs that we offer, from fine arts to engineering. At that time (when the policy changed), dual credit was a piece of this thought process as well. We were trying to find ways to free students up where they could take classes that were part of these programs instead of being penalized by not being able to achieve the highest honors that we have here at Graves County High School."

Madding said that when the vote to change the honors graduation policy occurred, students who took AP classes were scored on a five-point weighted GPA scale instead of a four-point scale.

"So the race to valedictorian and salutatorian forced students to take pretty much all of our AP classes," Madding said. "So what we did is, we tried to adjust it where we had a requirement that students had to take some AP classes or a dual credit equivalent of that class. We really wanted to open the door for kids to be able to take college classes not only on our campus through the AP (program), but also on the college campus.

"Then we wanted to free students up to take some of the fine arts classes, some engineering classes and things of that nature. We had some students that were not doing those just so they could take an AP class that they wouldn't necessarily need later, but they wanted to be valedictorian."

When the policy was adopted in 2013, the students already enrolled at GCHS were "grandfathered in" so that those already on track to be valedictorian or salutatorian wouldn't miss out and be disappointed, Madding said. He said that for the most part, students have been receptive to the change. Although some of them might have initially wanted the valedictorian or salutatorian title, they have benefited from a more rounded educational experience, he said.

The number of valedictorians varied in past years, with there sometimes being one and up to five in some years, Madding said. Students will now be honored as "Graduates of Distinction," which will include the designations of summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude.

Generally, the "Graduates of Distinction" will include students with a 3.5 GPA or higher, Madding said. The number of students will, of course, vary from year to year depending on grades for the most recent semester. As of Tuesday, 70 students are expected to achieve one of the three honor designations, Madding said.

To earn these "Graduates of Distinction" honors, students must take at least four AP or dual credit equivalent classes, including one in language arts or social studies and one in math or science. The students' minimum math requirement must be pre-calculus or AP statistics and they must also be college or career ready.

The specific requirements are:

n Summa cum laude - Must meet requirements above and have a 4.0 GPA with no grade below a B.

n Magna cum laude - Must meet requirements above and have a minimum 3.75 GPA with no grade below a C.

n Cum laude - Must meet requirements above and have a minimum 3.5 GPA with no grade below a C.

Kim Hamby, public relations director for Mayfield Independent Schools, said Mayfield High School's policy of naming valedictorians and salutatorians would remain the same for the foreseeable future.

For the Class of 2017, students who have all A's throughout four years of high school while taking an honor's curriculum are named as valedictorians, she said. Salutatorians will be the student or students with the highest GPA that, while taking an honor's curriculum, missed the criteria for valedictorian with no more than one grade below an A over the course of four years.

Starting with the Class of 2018, valedictorians must have earned all A's throughout all four years of high school based upon board-approved grading scales, and must have taken at least one AP class in each four core subject areas - English, math, science and history. An A in a non-AP class is 94-100, and 90-100 in AP classes, Hamby said.

Salutatorians will be the student or students who fell outside of the valedictorian status with highest GPA with no more than one score of 93 or less in a non-AP courses or 89 or below in an AP course based on the same criteria, Hamby said.

"As it is our tradition, Mayfield High School will continue to name valedictorians and salutations," said Principal Billy Edwards. "There are no plans to change that."

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