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Oct 3, 2017 2:57 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Board Members, Parents Continue To Debate Merits Of Class Ranking System In Westhampton Beach

Parent and former Board of Education member Clint Greenbaum speaks in favor of keeping class rank. KATE RIGA
Oct 3, 2017 3:41 PM

The debate over whether to eliminate class rank in the Westhampton Beach School District continues, as Board of Education members put off a decision for at least another two weeks.

At their meeting on Monday night, several board members—including Jim Hulme, Halsey Stevens and Claire Bean—suggested that they would support eliminating the current system that ranks students based on weighted grade point averages.

“I think we have to look at the full gamut of students,” Ms. Bean said, noting that she was worried about students ranked “20, 21, 22—because I was probably 79,” she said.

Mr. Stevens, meanwhile, said some students might stop applying themselves academically once they know that someone else has been selected as the class valedictorian or salutatorian. “After they get past one and two, they’re saying [to themselves], ‘Why bother?’ It’s a self-defeating system,” he added.

But some parents in the audience argued that the proposed changes, which would eliminate all rankings after class valedictorian and salutatorian—starting with either current junior or freshman classes—would harm the highest-achieving students.

Parent Cynthia McNamara of East Quogue, whose daughters are in the seventh and 10th grades and attend Westhampton Beach schools, said she opposes the policy change. But if the School Board does go through with it, she suggested that board members institute some other policy, such as percentile ranking, so students can still know where they stand among their peers—even if their exact ranks are never shared with the public.

“Closer to home, Southampton [High School] still keeps rank internally, and will release specific rank when necessary,” said Ms. McNamara, a former member of the East Quogue Board of Education.

The Southampton School District eliminated class rankings five years ago, including the highly coveted class valedictorian and salutatorian titles; officials in that district now rely on a system that recognizes larger groups of students with similar achievements.

Westhampton Beach Schools Superintendent Michael Radday anchored the side supporting the proposed change, repeating an earlier argument that the current system discourages college admission officials from looking beyond a student’s grade point average. The new system, if implemented, would force those individuals to take a closer look at a student’s extracurricular activities and other achievements.

Dr. Robert Finn, director of guidance and data management for Westhampton Beach, noted that a growing number of high schools across the country have eliminated traditional class rankings, and that their students are still being accepted into elite colleges.

Board members are expected to vote on the proposal at their next meeting on Monday, October 16, in the Westhampton Beach Middle School library. The meeting begins at 7 p.m.

“It’s hard to change culture,” Ms. Bean said. “And it’s especially hard to change culture in a district and community like ours, because it’s small. But it’s worth the conversation.”

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Dropping the ball, big time. Praise these kids that work hard.
Tired of participation trophies...
By knitter (835), Southampton on Oct 4, 17 5:03 PM
And just when will they learn about real life? You are doing a disservice to our youth. I say eliminate all competition of any kind in our world and see what you get.
By Taz (247), East Quogue on Oct 4, 17 5:17 PM
The issue is that the ranking system is not accurate...no one is suggesting that we give 'trophies to everyone'
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (390), southampton on Oct 15, 17 11:16 AM