Skip To Content

Wait … Our Valedictorian Might Not Be the Highest-Ranking Graduate?

An image of a father and mother hug their daughter who has just graduated and is wearing her cap and gown.

Students, families, district staff, and board members look forward to recognizing students’ accomplishments at graduation each year. But district administrators know that graduation can also elicit a lot of questions, including the relationship between local recognition as valedictorian and award of the Highest-Ranking Graduate scholarship, established by state law.

Local Honors

Recognition as valedictorian is a local honor determined by a district, usually based on having the highest class rank and meeting additional eligibility requirements listed in a district’s class-ranking policy at EIC(LOCAL). For example, districts often require that the valedictorian has been continuously enrolled in his or her high school for a defined period immediately preceding graduation.

In a district with such a requirement, a recent transfer student with the highest rank would not be eligible to be valedictorian, and the valedictorian would be the student with the highest class rank who meets the local eligibility requirements.

Highest-Ranking Graduate

The Highest-Ranking Graduate scholarship is established by state law. The Texas Education Code authorizes state-supported colleges or universities to provide a scholarship each year to the Highest-Ranking Graduate of each accredited Texas high school. The scholarship exempts a graduate from the payment of tuition during both semesters of the first regular session immediately following the student’s graduation.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) says that a qualified student is eligible to be the Highest-Ranking Graduate “based on school policy.” To avoid conflict and uncertainty, districts should explicitly define the qualifications for the Highest-Ranking Graduate at EIC(LOCAL). Policy Service recommends one of two options:

  1. The local eligibility criteria for recognition as the valedictorian shall not affect recognition of the Highest-Ranking Graduate. In other words, the student with the highest class rank is the Highest-Ranking Graduate.
  2. The student meeting the local eligibility criteria for recognition as the valedictorian shall also be considered the Highest-Ranking Graduate. In other words, the student named the valedictorian is considered the Highest-Ranking Graduate, even if that student may not have the highest class rank.

To return to our example, a recent transfer student with a higher class rank than the valedictorian would not meet the district’s eligibility criteria for valedictorian. Under the first option above, the recent transfer would be declared the Highest-Ranking Graduate, but not the valedictorian. Under the second option, the valedictorian would be the Highest-Ranking Graduate even though the recent transfer had a higher GPA.

A Stitch in Time . . .

Issues regarding local graduation honors and honors established by state law can become contentious. The best time to make decisions about class ranking, local honors, and the Highest-Ranking Graduate is before a conflict occurs. If your EIC(LOCAL) does not include an explicit definition of the Highest-Ranking Graduate, or if this definition conflicts with district practice, contact your policy consultant.

Was this article helpful?

Get the Inside Scoop

Want to receive our newsletter and training emails? Sign up to get the latest risk management information that will help you succeed.