NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — A central Indiana school district is set to become the latest in the state to stop naming high school valedictorians, a shift that’s intended to spur top students to focus on preparing for college and taking courses that interest them.

Next year, Noblesville Schools will join two other districts in Hamilton County, just north of Indianapolis, in making the change. Carmel Clay and Westfield-Washington schools dropped their valedictorian tradition years ago.

The districts decided to end the academic honor for their graduating classes to get high-performing students focused on bettering themselves, and not competing with peers, The Indianapolis Star reported (http://indy.st/2rY5elS ).

“We want them to choose what courses to take based on their interest level and what is going to best prepare them for college,” said Noblesville High School Principal Jeff Bryant.

He said the old system unfairly compared students across schools, or even across years. Rather than identifying one student with the highest grade-point average, the schools have embraced a method similar to universities that places top graduating students in levels of distinction.

When high schools began offering advanced, college-level classes weighted heavier toward a student’s GPA than standard classes, Bryant said that prompted some students to prioritize weighted classes, perhaps over art or band, to boost their GPA. Other students might choose a class that seems easier instead of one they’re interested in to try to boost their GPA.

Under the new system Noblesville Schools will adopt next year, a student with a 3.5-3.74 GPA will graduate cum laude, a 3.75-3.99 GPA will be magna cum laude and a 4.0 or higher GPA will be summa cum laude.

Most college applications allow students to specify that their high school doesn’t rank students, said Carmel High School counselor Melinda Stephan.

Megan Dorton, an admissions counselor at Purdue University, said that if a prospective student has a traditional class ranking “we certainly consider it,” but if not she said that doesn’t pose a problem.

Bryant said Noblesville will still give a student their rank if an application or scholarship requires it. He said parents expressed concerns about how colleges would react, but said former top students were in favor of the change.

“We live in this society where competition is valued in a lot of ways,” Bryant said. “If you can get past the idea that competition in this case was probably for the wrong reasons … there’s not a lot to argue about.”


Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com