Most U.S. and Canadian high schools recognize the graduating student who holds the highest academic standing with the title of valedictorian. Although the naming of a valedictorian is one of the most common markers of achievement in the United States, top academic standing is largely absent from the gifted literature. There is relatively little research about valedictorians and increasing controversy about whether to continue the designation. This entry describes some of the issues relating to valedictorians and gifted.

Literally “farewell sayer,” the valedictorian traditionally gives a speech at high school commencement. The first record of naming a valedictorian appeared in Harvard College presidential papers in 1759. The practice was widespread among U.S. high schools by the 1840s, serving both as public recognition of individual achievement and ...

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