The Botetourt School Board voted 4-0 at its April meeting to implement a new way of recognizing seniors’ academic achievement when they graduate.

The school division is dropping valedictorian and salutatorian designations effective with the Class of 2021— next fall’s freshman class.

Current high school students— through the Class of 2020— will continue to have valedictorians and salutatorians.

Once the new academic recognition goes into effect, the two county high schools will use a multi-tier program similar to what colleges and universities use, similar to summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude.

The School Board adopted the new recognition after an 11-member Honor Graduate Recognition Process Review Committee recommended the change in a report at the March School Board meeting.

The committee had been meeting since last fall to formulate a recommendation.

The three levels or recognition will 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 told the School Board the change aligns 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.

Pennington told the School Board the committee reviewed statistics based on students’ current GPA levels and determined the 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.

The high schools will still maintain class rank because some scholarships applications ask for that information.

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.

Pendleton told the School Board in March the committee believes the new system “promotes a level of excellence and relieves the pressure on students by not having them take classes they may not have wanted.”

— Ed McCoy