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Top high school honors for students who never step on campus

High school students who never set foot on campus cannot become the valedictorian or salutatorian in some school districts, but a proposed Georgia law could change that.

House Bill 114 mandates that students who graduate after taking all their classes at college in the state’s “move on when ready” program are entitled to the distinctions.

The bill, by Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella, prohibits the exclusion of students from valedictorian or salutatorian determinations just because they’ve taken “one or more” dual credit courses, as long as they’ve been in the district since their sophomore year.

“I think the day of taking all your courses on campus at one physical location are really gone,” Dickey told senators on the Education and Youth Committee Monday. The bill got a hearing after passing the House of Representatives with bipartisan support on March 1.

Catherine Gibbs, a teacher in White County, defended her district’s policy of excluding dual-enrolled students from the top honors. College course grades get a multiplier, so dual-enrolled students have an advantage in the grade point average calculations, she said. That means students who cannot take advantage of the program, such as impoverished students who lack a car, are on an uneven playing field. Also, the word “valedictorian” refers to a communal experience, and dual-enrolled students who never go to their high school will lack shared experiences with fellow graduates, she said.

Maybe they should get their own distinction that acknowledges their different experience, she said.

There was no vote on the measure, which will return to the Senate committee for another hearing.

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