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Schools plan to eliminate class ranking

January 19, 2012
By J.T. Whitehouse , Town Crier

The Canfield Board of Education heard a report at their Wednesday, Jan. 11 meeting about a plan to eliminate class ranking beginning in 2014. The move is expected to give more students a better opportunity when seeking higher education.

The report was given by Canfield High School principals John Tullio and Michael Moldovan, along with guidance counselors Rebecca Heikkenin and Tara Kalina. The four put together a presentation that was an eye opener on just what class ranking does for the students.

"Competitive schools are penalized by class rank," Heikkenin said. "Students could have a 3.1 GPA and be ranked in the lower half of their class."

She said some students miss out on scholarships if they are not in the top 10 percent. Those ranked in the middle or near the cutoff point can be affected the most.

Kalina mentioned that last year the school had six valedictorians. She said under the ranking system, many were just a half point off making it.

"It can really destroy their ambition," Kalina said.

In investigating other schools, Moldovan said they looked at Canfield's state performance that ranks Canfield at 58th in the state. He said seven schools above Canfield are specialty schools and he said in public schools, Canfield actually should rank 50th. Of the schools above Canfield, the team of four surveyed 35 of those schools, including first-ranked Solon.

"They (Solon) found they were doing their kids a disservice by ranking them," he said. "They were very happy with not ranking them."

Another negative for ranking was the competition it created. Moldovan said there was a case where a student was taking an exam and had prepared by bringing in several sharpened pencils. Another student brought one and the pencil broke shortly after the test began. That student asked the other student to borrow a pencil, to which the answer was no. Moldovan said both were close in rank and the student with all the sharp pencils realized that it was an advantage to ensure a higher rank by not giving the other student a chance to finish the test.

"They are fighting to see who can get the top spot," Heikkenin said. "Students aren't helping others, but keeping information to themselves so they can stay on top."

She said today's businesses want kids who can work well together as a team when it comes to problem solving.

"That's not what we want," Heikkenin said.

In checking on a nationwide level, the team found that half of all U.S. schools do not have class ranking. The bottom line was that competitive schools like Canfield were being penalized by ranking.

As for colleges and scholarships, schools that didn't rank found that colleges simply looked at other indicators such as GPA, ACT, SAT scores and college prep courses as well as school district profile. In other words, more students in non-ranking schools had a good chance at colleges.

To replace the ranking system, the team came up with the cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude system. A GPA of 4.2 would be summa cum laude, 4.1 to 4.19 would be magna cum laude and 4.01 to 4.09 would be cum laude.

Tullio suggested the new system be put in place for this year's sophomore class and would take effect in 2014.

Board member Lee Frey told the team, "I think it is an outstanding idea. I have seen the competition [in ranking] and know how kids can be devastated by it."

Board member Phil Bova said, "My hats off to you four. You've seen a problem and are fixing it."

Moldovan mentioned that this move would make Canfield the first Mahoning County school district to eliminate class ranking.



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