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Jun 10, 2009 2:07 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton High School considers eliminating class rankings

Jun 10, 2009 2:07 PM

The Southampton School Board is considering eliminating the class ranking system at Southampton High School so seniors will no longer know where they place among the 150 or so students in their class, nor will the ranks be reported on transcripts sent to colleges.

School officials argue that class ranks have students worrying about how they fare against their peers rather than about reaching their individual potential, and that many college admissions offices do not even consider students’ class ranks.

“It minimizes the work that we do in schools,” Southampton High School Principal Adam Fine said at the June 2 School Board meeting. “It breaks things down to numbers.”

Nicholas Dyno, the district’s assistant superintendent for instruction, said on Tuesday that under a class ranking system students focus on taking the classes that will carry the most weight for their rank, like Advanced Placement courses, rather than classes that would be most relevant to them or interest them most, like music, art and technology courses.

Mr. Dyno said that the positives of a class ranking system are that it encourages students to work hard and take high-level classes, but he said that could still be achieved without rankings.

Nathan Jayne, the high school’s director of guidance, leads the subcommittee on student ranking, a part of the School Board’s Academic Advisory Committee. He presented the subcommittee’s findings to the School Board earlier this month.

Mr. Jayne said a ranking system hurts all students except the top students in the class. He said that in some instances, high-achievers choose not to apply to a school when they know a student ranked higher than them also applied. The students figure that the college would take only the highest-ranked Southampton student who applied—but that is not the case, he said.

The class ranking subcommittee recommends the class ranking system be eliminated starting with the class of 2014, the current seventh-graders. The Academic Advisory Committee recommended eliminating class ranks even sooner, Mr. Jayne said, starting with either the class of 2011 or class of 2012.

Mr. Fine said he would be happy to see the ranking system done away with sooner, but only with the full support of the School Board and superintendent of schools, Dr. J. Richard Boyes.

Dr. Boyes said he endorses eliminating class ranks, and the sooner the better.

“I think you have to be very careful about when you implement change,” warned School Board Vice President David Dubin. He said he does not want to change the rules for current high school students who are anticipating they will receive a class rank and have had the class weighting and ranking system in their student handbooks.

The idea was forwarded to the School Board’s policy committee, which will come back to the board with a recommendation at a future meeting.

The class ranking subcommittee also noted some flaws in the ranking system that it wanted addressed. For instance, Mr. Jayne said students who came to Southampton High School from Tuckahoe School or Our Lady of the Hamptons Catholic School, rather than Southampton Intermediate School, are at a disadvantage because their schools did not offer as many high school-level classes.

Currently, high school-level classes that students take in eighth grade can be counted in their weighted high school grade point average. The subcommittee recommended the practice be discontinued so students enter Southampton High School on a level playing field.

Mr. Jayne noted that though class rankings would be eliminated from students’ transcripts, under the subcommittee’s recommendations the high school would still keep confidential internal ranks for scholarships and to determine the valedictorian and salutatorian. The subcommittee also suggested starting to give top-performing students cum laude and magna cum laude designations.

Mr. Jayne said he has wanted to do away with class rankings ever since he joined Southampton High School three years ago.

“This year was so great to do it,” he said. “Because this year’s class was so competitive, the numbers really screamed out.” He cited an example of a student whose class rank was 22 spots higher on the chart just because he graduated in 2007, rather than 2009. His rank was just a matter of what year he was born, Mr. Jayne said.

Mr. Jayne said students are only informed of their class rank at the end of six semesters—or the end of junior year. Then, to determine valedictorian and salutatorian, the number one and number two students in the 12th grade, the students are reranked three quarters of the way through senior year, he said. But on that occasion, only the valedictorian and salutatorian are given their ranks, he added.

Joe Mullen of Tuckahoe said he offered to underwrite a $250 scholarship for each of the top performing Southampton High School students in grades nine through 12 who had graduated from the Tuckahoe School. The Tuckahoe School District serves kindergarten through eighth grade, and sends most of its high school-aged students to Southampton High School.

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The problem isn't ranking students but how they are ranked. Courses should be weighted so someone taking all AP and honors classes and gets similar scores to someone who takes less academically challenging classes gets a higher ranking.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Jun 12, 09 3:07 PM