More than 1,100 students will walk across the stage this weekend and get their diplomas in Clark and Champaign counties.

High school to eliminate valedictorian honor over 'mental wellness' concerns

Citing an unhealthy competitiveness among students, an Ohio high school will no longer recognize a valedictorian or salutatorian beginning next school year, school officials say.         

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The change, announced Thursday, is one of several aimed at improving students' mental health. The high school will also transition to a GPA scale with a 5.0 maximum, according to Mason City Schools.          

"After a year-long study and focus groups with students, staff, and families, MHS officials made the announcement as part of an effort to improve students’ mental wellness," a Thursday release says.          

Under the current system, high school students who earned a C grade or higher in Advanced Placement, honors or College Credit Plus classes earned an extra .03 points to their GPA. The add-on credit was applied to their GPAs earned in standard classes.          

No GPA cap was in place, so students chased higher and higher GPAs instead of pursuing other endeavors: "Kids were using their summers, using time during the year to stack themselves up with even more classes," said Tracey Carson, a district spokeswoman.          

The new GPA cap is in line with the structure of some peer districts, Carson added.

The school will still recognize academic achievers despite the changes. Students with a 4.0 GPA and higher will earn summa cum laude honors, 3.75 to 3.99 will earn magna cum laude, and 3.51 to 3.74 will earn cum laude.          

"The recognition system will reward our students for genuine academic success based on their academic accomplishments," said Mason High School Principal Bobby Dodd in a statement. "This will help reduce the overall competitive culture at MHS to allow students to focus on exploring learning opportunities that are of interest to them."          

The changes come after study and focus group meetings attended by staff, students and families over the course of a year, the district said.          

Mason officials say colleges and universities place more emphasis on student performance in rigorous courses than on class rank.          

Students will still have the opportunity to take AP, honors and college-credit classes.

Mason High School and Middle School will also start school a half-hour later beginning in the next school year. Later start times are associated with higher attendance and improved grades.          

A national trend of high schools eliminating or changing the valedictorian tradition has been documented by such publications as the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal in recent years.     

» RELATED: 90-year-old Illinois man graduates college 70 years after dropping out     

Follow Max Londberg on Twitter: @maxlondberg.             

Contributing: Joel Shannon, USA TODAY

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