School Board will vote next month on recommendation to drop valedictorians/salutatorians in favor of college-like academic recognition


The Botetourt School Board will decide in April whether to implement a proposed new way of recognizing seniors’ academic achievement when they graduate.

The board is considering dropping valedictorian and salutatorian designations as part of the proposal that was unveiled at last Thursday’s regular March meeting.

Instead of having valedictorians and salutatorians at the county’s two high schools, the 11-member Honor Graduate Recognition Process Review Committee, designated to develop a new way of recognizing academic achievement, asked the School Board to adopt a multi-tier program similar to what colleges and universities use— similar to summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude.

The committee suggested adopting different names for the achievement levels, ones that are more reflective of the school division.

The three levels would be based on grade point average (GPA) upon graduation.

The highest level would be for students who take weighted or dual enrollment classes and have GPAs of 4.25 or higher.

The next level would be for students who have GPAs between 4.00 and 4.249, and the third level would be for students who have GPAs from 3.75 to 3.99.

Supervisor of Instruction Keith Pennington presented the committee’s recommendations to the School Board.

The School Board agreed to having the superintendent form the committee last fall. It was not a new topic for the board, which had discussed the possibility of making a change at two work sessions, including one last August.

Pennington told the School Board the recommendations align with the school division’s goals for accountability for student learning, having rigorous standards to promote college and career readiness and providing expanded opportunities to learn.

The School Board is expected to approve the change when it meets in April. Under the recommendation, the new academic recognition will go into affect with this fall’s freshman classes— the senior class that will graduate in 2021.

Current high school students will continue with the same valedictorian/salutatorian recognition they started high school with.

Pennington told the School Board the committee reviewed statistics based on students’ current GPA levels and determined the above suggested GPA recognition levels would provide students with the opportunity to be recognized for achievement based on what they had accomplished and was not based on a competitive process.

As an example, he said four students in this year’s graduating class at James River High School would achieve the highest recognition level under the recommendations— about 2 percent of the class.

At Lord Botetourt, he said 10 students would achieve that level— about the same percentage as at JRHS.

Pennington said the schools would still maintain class rank because some scholarships applications ask for that information.

The committee included two parents, principals and guidance officials from both high schools, two teachers, two from administration and School Board member Scott Swortzel.

The committee brought in six high school students to discuss the proposal. Pennington said the high school students wanted the committee to be sure any recommendation maintained high academic expectations. They did not want the recognition “watered down,” he said.

Pendleton said to achieve the highest recognition (4.25 GPA or above) a student would have to take 32 credits, and at least eight of those would have to be weighted through dual enrollment, governor’s school or the STEM-H program. Then the student would have to get A’s in all of those courses.

He said the committee believes the proposed new system “promotes a level of excellence and relieves the pressure on students by not having them take classes they may not have wanted.”

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