Weekly Feature

2017-09-13 / Front Page

Williamsville schools oust student ranking

by Keaton T. DePriest

The Williamsville School Board in a unanimous vote on Tuesday agreed to eliminate class ranking in its three high schools, beginning with the current class of freshmen students.

As a result, class ranking will only be used in the district until 2020, when Williamsville’s sophomores reach graduation.

Prior to the board’s vote on the matter — which totaled 7-0 with board members Teresa Leatherbarrow and Kurt Venator absent — the panel heard from the district’s three high school principals about their recommendations and opinions from their students.
“This isn’t about rank,” said South Principal Keith Boardman. “It’s about sending the right messages to students on what colleges are really looking for.”

The principals of East and North concurred with Boardman’s assessment, adding that neither had spoken with students or parents who were veraciously opposed to eliminating ranking.

“I am in favor of getting rid of class rank,” said Gary Collichio, North principal. “It’s part of some very, very antiquated ways.”

The question of whether or not to end class rank has been a discussion topic in the district for the past few years, with students and parents being surveyed on the subject.

Additionally, the School Board at two recent meetings — one in June and another in August — approved tabling  two resolutions that sought to end class ranking.

At its June 13 meeting, the School Board viewed a  presentation on class  ranking provided by  Anna Cieri, assistant superintendent of exceptional education and student services and Marie Balen,  assistant superintendent for instruction.  

During the presentation, Cieri said an online survey that was offered to district parents and students in spring 2016, requesting people to anonymously provide their opinion on whether or not class ranking should be used in the district.

According to Cieri, an overwhelming percentage supported eliminating class ranking, citing the need to alleviate stress and the lack of uniformity across schools on how students were ranked. Also in June, Cieri said that  class rank holds “a very small importance” to college admissions offices, and about 60 percent of high schools in America do not rank students.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Balen restated some of the June presentation with updated information. She said class ranking was not used as part of the application process at a majority of colleges surveyed by district officials. Balen  said most colleges only use class rank as part of a student’s academic review if the district uses the ranking. 

She  added that the majority of colleges, especially those with in the State University of New York system, review students’ grade point average, SAT and ACT scores, mid-terms, activities and  honors when evaluating acceptance.

Board President Shawn Lemay in a final question to the high school principals asked for opinions on how speakers would be named at commencement ceremonies without a rank to decide the valedictorian and salutatorian.

Scanzuso said East High School has its own tradition of commencement speakers. He said students will submit speeches for review by a panel of school administrators. Two students are selected for speaking at graduation each year through the contest.

Boardman said South and North could establish a similar commencement speaker model or develop new traditions.  

“We could have something that could become a new, lasting tradition that the students would be a part of,” he said.

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