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Oct 17, 2017 11:10 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Board Of Education Unanimously Votes To Get Rid Of Class Rank

Parent and former board of education member Clint Greenbaum makes a last-ditch effort to argue in favor of keeping the class rank system before the Westhampton Beach Board of Education voted unanimously to get rid of it. KATE RIGA
Oct 18, 2017 12:55 PM

The Westhampton Beach Board of Education voted unanimously on Monday to eliminate class rankings, starting with this year’s junior class, though a class valedictorian and salutatorian will continue to be chosen based on their weighted grade point averages.

The board initially considered the policy change after receiving input from the Guidance Advisory Board, a mix of faculty, guidance counselors, administrators and parents, which meets three times a year to discuss new ideas to enhance the guidance program for students.

The topic of the class rank system was originally brought up during the 2016-17 school year, and since then the group has sat in on presentations by Dr. Robert Finn, Westhampton Beach’s director of guidance and data management, and Dr. Christopher Herr, principal of Westhampton Beach High School, who were pushing for the changes.

Three parents—Cynthia McNamara, John Kern and Clint Greenbaum—who had attended many recent meetings to voice their support of keeping the system, made a last-ditch effort during Monday night’s board meeting to argue their side before members made their decision to ditch the student-ranking system.

Mr. Greenbaum took on the board’s argument that the system hurts all the students who miss the top spots. “Striving for a higher class rank—which starts in eighth grade—helps everyone,” he said. “If the lower-performing students work harder to improve their rank, those ahead of them will work harder to stay ahead.”

Mr. Kern spoke up for the high-achieving students, worrying that losing the distinction of a top rank could hurt them in their college admission process. He reeled off a list of elite universities—including Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University—that either take rank into consideration during the application process, or have an undergraduate body made up of a majority of students who were ranked in high school.

Ms. McNamara recounted a conversation she’d had with her sophomore daughter who fretted that her good grades wouldn’t mean anything to colleges without a comparison to her peers’ performances. “You run a race and you have your time—but how do you put that time into context?” she relayed her daughter asking. “How do I know if I’ve won the race or if I’m 25th?”

Though no parents who attended Monday’s meeting spoke in favor of getting rid of the ranking system, the board had already made up its mind. Over their past few meetings, board members consistently reiterated their position that omitting rank on college applications forces admissions officers to look at a holistic picture of the student, including their GPAs, extracurricular activities and other school contributions. They argued that this would work in favor of students on both ends of the ranking scale: for students who would have been highly ranked, their other achievements will make it clear that they belong on top; for students who would have had a low rank, getting rid of the number makes it harder for admissions officials to disregard them so quickly.

They also often brought up Dr. Finn’s research, which stated that, most times, only a few percentage points separate the top-ranked student from the one finishing 20th overall. Such a system, he’s argued, inadvertently puts the lower-ranked student at a distinct disadvantage.

“The board considered carefully all the information that was shared with them by Dr. Finn, Dr. Herr, and the parents who spoke at the Board of Education meetings,” Westhampton Beach Schools Superintendent Michael Radday said on Wednesday. “After evaluating all of the information, the board concluded that eliminating class rank was in the best interests of our students.”

At Monday’s meeting, the approval of the policy to eliminate class rank was motioned by board member James Hulme and seconded by Joyce Donneson. The updated policy, which notes that a class valedictorian and salutatorian will continue to be selected annually based on the weighted GPAs of students, can be found on the Westhampton Beach School District website, www.westhamptonbeach.k12.ny.us.

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By traffic (26), Southampton on Oct 17, 17 11:23 AM
Three BOE meetings and not one single parent or community member spoke in favor of eliminating class rank.
By cmac (184), East Quogue on Oct 17, 17 12:34 PM
It's a gluten-free, trophies-for-everyone society now.
By Mouthampton (437), Southampton on Oct 17, 17 1:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
What is the matter with having a class ranking? Are you hurting someones feelings. Rank the first 25 so they know where they stand for college admissions. Colleges want to know...
You can't keep giving out participation awards in the REAL WORLD.. I could not attend college, but got a education from the USAF and got a very good job with Ma Bell because of my grades.
Give praise where praise is do... Amen...
By knitter (1902), Southampton on Oct 17, 17 1:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
I think the point of doing away with class rankings is that there are already plenty of objective measures of academic ability: SAT/ACT, AP, Regents, and other exams provide enough information to easily compare students across the state and country.

Add to that the contextual complications of evaluating class rankings (is it better to be #1 in School A or #5 in School B?) and it just seems logical that they wouldn't want to risk potentially hurting their students' chances during the college ...more
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 17, 17 1:44 PM
Nothing you said is logical! Just because little Johnny opts out of tests, and has a wall of trophies doesn't mean he will be in the NFL or go to Harvard. Kids need reality and need to know their strengths or they will find out the hard way..
By chief1 (2786), southampton on Oct 17, 17 2:01 PM
If it doesn't seem logical, let me illustrate it better for you:

Say Student A gets a 2000 on the SAT and Student B gets a 2100, who performed better?

Now, say Student A is ranked #1 at Southampton and Student B is ranked #1 at Westhampton, who performed better?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 17, 17 2:41 PM
But what if student A spent the last 5 years working hard and getting consistent top grades but had a cold/grandmother died/etc. the day of the SAT, while student B slacked off for most of 5 years, would only put effort in occasionally, and had mediocre grades but happened to get lucky in a lot of his guesses on the SAT. Student rankings show the consistency of a student’s grades and effort. As an employer, I’d take student A all day long.
By localEH (426), East Hampton on Oct 17, 17 11:59 PM
That's fair, if there was only one opportunity to take the exam and they were stuck with the grade (it isn't and they're not).

The student can also show consistency on their grades throughout their transcript, which is still going to be part of the admissions package.

I feel like a lot of people are modeling their answer after what school was like when they graduated...well,thinks have changed, including being able to take the SAT multiple times and only sending colleges your highest ...more
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 18, 17 6:20 AM
I think that the reason they are doing away with rankings is because they don't want anyone's feelings to be hurt. Competition, regardless of sample size, is always a good thing. All of the excuses against it are just rationalizations. Universities are always going to look at the bigger picture when determining an application.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Oct 18, 17 12:19 PM
Is your belief that they are doing it to spare people's feelings based on anything, or are you just spitballing?

I think it's cute that you have faith in admissions departments to always get it right. As for me, I'd rather give my kids the best chance possible.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 18, 17 12:58 PM
If it doesn't seem logical, let me illustrate it better for you:

Say Student A gets a 2000 on the SAT and Student B gets a 2100, who performed better?

Now, say Student A is ranked #1 at Southampton and Student B is ranked #1 at Westhampton, who performed better?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 17, 17 2:37 PM
But how are my children going to measure their self-worth now? I guess they'll just have to go out and get jobs and pay taxes like everyone else.
By johnj (1019), Westhampton on Oct 17, 17 3:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
2100 performed better, each student is ranked #1 in their respective schools and they performed better than the rest of their fellow students, what's the issue? Competition is a good thing, despite the liberals being against it, participation trophies suck.
By bigfresh (4593), north sea on Oct 17, 17 5:42 PM
You hit it on the head: the class ranking has no quantifiable value in college admissions when comparing students from different schools and can only hurt students if it's not a flashy number.

They're still going to award the Salutorian and Valedictorian. If anything, awarding a number to everyone else is the participation trophy.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 17, 17 5:52 PM
Do you really think the SATs are the real judge of how someone does in school? Hopefully you're not a teacher or any type of educator because no one believes that. When someone is going to college the admissions office doesn't only take into consideration SATs. Sorry to burst your bubble give me your address I will send you a trophy for trying
By chief1 (2786), southampton on Oct 17, 17 8:19 PM
Ok, wise guy. Do you think a class ranking is a better metric?

Obviously SATs aren't the only thing admissions looks at (did anyone say that?) but the benefits of generating class rankings (which is the actual topic of this conversation) are meager compared to the risks.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 17, 17 8:30 PM
What risks?
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Oct 18, 17 12:21 PM
You might have seen this already, but I'm repeating it here for your benefit:

A non-flashy number will count against kids who attend higher-performing schools despite their having much more competition, whereas children who rank higher at worse schools will be looked at more favorably, despite having less competitive classmates.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 18, 17 12:59 PM
If you're not valedictorian, you didn't win the race.
By Mr. Z (11670), North Sea on Oct 18, 17 2:28 AM
1 member liked this comment
It doesn't really matter if you win the race in Westhampton Beach anymore because you can't report that distinction on your college applications.
By cmac (184), East Quogue on Oct 18, 17 8:03 AM
Beyond a pat on the back, it doesn't really matter or mean anything if you win the race at most high schools, since the #1 class ranking in School A may be easier to attain than being in the top 25 at School B.

Coincidentally, class-ranking based admissions were the focus of an affirmative action case in Texas: UT accepts (accepted?) any applicant who is in the top 10% of their graduating class, irrespective of any other qualifications, resulting in greater diversity at their campus.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 18, 17 8:18 AM
There is no "risk" with class rankings, other than to the fragile egos of a few coddled snowflakes.
By bigfresh (4593), north sea on Oct 18, 17 7:21 AM
1 member liked this comment
There's actually plenty of risk, since the students cannot be easily compared against each other.

A non-flashy number will count against kids who attend higher-performing schools despite their having much more competition, whereas children who rank higher at worse schools will be looked at more favorably, despite having less competitive classmates.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 18, 17 8:39 AM
I went to a school with no class rank. You still knew who the smartest kids in the school were.
By watermill_mike (35), Sag Harbor on Oct 18, 17 11:00 AM
1 member liked this comment
In retrospect, do you think class ranks would have benefited you?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 18, 17 11:18 AM
do you believe in participation trophies foreign?
By bigfresh (4593), north sea on Oct 18, 17 12:31 PM
I believe in them insofar I believe they exist, but I'm not sure if that answers your question.

Why are we talking about this though? Haven't we already established that, if anything, getting a class rank beyond valedictorian/salutorian is the real participation trophy?
Oct 18, 17 12:53 PM appended by Fore1gnBornHBgrown
Insofar *as
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 18, 17 12:53 PM
Foreign - I have no idea if having a class rank would've helped me or not. In my case, maybe knowing where I stood would have helped encourage me to work harder. If I worked harder on my studies, I might not have pursued other interests which grew into my profession. Or maybe being ranked might have exacerbated feelings of insecurity all teens get from time to time. Maybe a mix of all three. Rank or not, strong and compassionate parenting and teacher support and guidance is needed in all those ...more
By watermill_mike (35), Sag Harbor on Oct 18, 17 4:30 PM
1 member liked this comment
We're all just trying to do right by our kids. Thanks for the response!
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 18, 17 5:14 PM
Agreed foreign, but shielding them from the FACT that the real world is ultra competitive and they will have to deal with it is doing them a disservice . Might as well spell out the reality early and often.
By bigfresh (4593), north sea on Oct 18, 17 6:30 PM
It might be, but I think kids are reminded of that plenty already, at least more than when I was growing up.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 18, 17 6:36 PM
Here we are yet again moving forward to change the injustices of society. We have left the concept of "survival of the fittest" and are adopting survival of the "whinny-est". Let mediocrity be the bar of standards for all, Allow no winners or losers here in our world. Demand inclusiveness yet unique identity and recognition , demand equality yet expect inequality of performance. If the class rank system is bad for fragile egos and college entrance than so is the SAT system and the regents system ...more
By wattssuo (8), East Quogue on Oct 21, 17 2:20 PM
The US public school system has been churning out woefully unprepared students, because of the ridiculous adults that run it.
By even flow (988), East Hampton on Oct 24, 17 4:18 PM
Which part of not generating class ranks means they're unprepared?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 24, 17 4:23 PM
Read the part after ''because'' again.

There is where you will find the cause of the unprepared students.

By even flow (988), East Hampton on Oct 24, 17 4:57 PM
I was more interested in the "how" of your conclusory statement than the "why."

How's does a class rank indicate preparedness at all?

Do you have kids in school?

Perhaps you're unaware, but facts are that kids know far more today, and far more is asked of them, than when we graduated (assuming you're also class-of-20th-century).
Oct 25, 17 5:37 AM appended by Fore1gnBornHBgrown
It's too bad the press took down Even's very strong, personal reaction to my inquiry.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 25, 17 5:37 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By even flow (988), East Hampton on Oct 25, 17 5:51 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8048), HAMPTON BAYS on Oct 25, 17 5:58 AM
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