Greenville County Schools will change how it determines top seniors

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Greenville County Schools is changing how it honors the county’s top graduating students.

Currently, the county’s 14 high schools all determine their top seniors in different ways.

Under the change, all high schools would recognize students using the Latin honors system — students with a 4.25 GPA would graduate cum laude, a GPA of at least 4.5 would be magna cum laude, and a 4.75 or higher would be summa cum laude.

The change does not affect a school’s ability to honor a valedictorian or salutatorian.

An ad hoc committee of the district’s board of trustees recommended the changes after hearing from all of the principals.

“Previously, it’s been left up to each individual high school how they want to recognize honor graduates,” board member Lisa Wells told the trustees at a meeting. “They call them different things and they had different criteria, they had different cut scores.”

For example, Greer High School honors the top 10 graduating students, while Hillcrest High School uses the Latin honors system but with different cut scores.

At Hillcrest, a student could graduate cum laude with a 4.0, magna cum laude with a 4.25, and summa cum laude with a 4.5.

The board approved the change at a board meeting on Feb. 26. The new honors system won’t take effect until 2023.

The board also approved having the district study the cut scores used for the Latin honors system after the first year of its implementation, in 2024.

Hillcrest Principal Bryan Skipper said he thinks roughly the same number of students would be recognized under the new proposal at the high school as were recognized in previous years since South Carolina transitioned to a 10-point grading scale two years ago.

Students with a grade of 90 or higher in a class now receive a GPA of 4.0 or higher, whereas the previous cutoff for a 4.0 was a score of 93.

Superintendent Burke Royster said the district’s high school principals approved of the change.

“One of the biggest problems was students transferring among schools, and then they’d transfer and the rules were different,” Royster said. “This sets a level playing field.”

Royster said the change also eliminates some of the competition in high schools where honor graduates are based on a set number or percent of students.

“It sets a bar for anybody to be able to attain — you don’t have to compete amongst your fellow students, you have to get to that bar,” Royster said.

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