KB Reference Desk: Highest Ranking Graduate

Q:      Board policy requires we determine Valedictorian based upon the student’s grade point average at the end of the 5th six-weeks. Highest Ranking Graduate is awarded to the student with the highest GPA at the end of the school year. Based on grade projections, we anticipate a tie between two students for Highest Ranking Graduate. Our policy provides no instruction on breaking a tie. Can we have one Valedictorian based upon the 5th six-weeks determination and two Highest Ranking Graduates based upon the tie at the end of the school year? 

A:      Likely yes, because the determination of the Highest Ranking Graduate is purely a local decision. 

Valedictorian and Highest Ranking Graduate are recognitions awarded based upon the criteria set out in Board Policy EIC (Local). While similar, the two awards are not synonymous and board policy should address the selection criteria for each award. 

Valedictorian is not recognized in the Education Code and is a purely local honor. Highest Ranking Graduate, however, is an honor established in the Education Code, and allows Texas institutions of Higher Education to “issue scholarships each year to the highest ranking graduate of each accredited high school of this state, exempting the graduates from the payment of tuition during both semesters of the first regular session immediately following their graduation.” TEC 54.301.

The Attorney General has previously determined that in the event of a tie, a maximum of two students may be awarded a Highest Ranking Graduate certification, but under no circumstances can a district issue more than two certificates. Tex. Att’y Gen Op. 529 (1982).  Because in the above scenario there is no policy in place to break the tie, awarding two certificates is acceptable. To prevent recurrence, we recommend the Board adopt policy codifying its practice in the event of a tie. Best practice would be for the new policy to take effect with the incoming freshman.