Students cite unfair competition, bypassing preferred classes
By Peter Becker
WALLENPAUPACK - Continuing the discussion of dropping the system of class rank, Wallenpaupack School Board on March 11th, heard from some of their top seniors.
Luke Bond, Kaitlin Kresse and Erika Maxson were invited there to be recognized for their outstanding academic achievements and participation in extracurricular activities. They as well as their peers share the potential to be among the "top 10", possibly be named Valedictorian or Salutatorian, and compete for placement in some of the nation's most enviable colleges or universities.
That competition, however, can be fierce, pitting student against student, creating a class system within their school class, and discourage other students from trying as hard. Students also are found skipping courses of most interest to them in favor of curriculum that will count better towards their class rank.
Principal Jay Starnes, Wallenpaupack Area High School, told the Board that they are still seeking input before making a formal recommendation to the Board this spring. Administration is weighing whether to drop the class rank system in exchange for the Latin system which takes a broader perspective, counting student performance from a variety of factors and putting top achievers within wider recognized groupings.
High performing students would have distinction of being named at graduation within classifications of Magna Cum Laude, Summa Cum Laude and Cum Laude.
Starnes reported that Administration is considering providing class rank to parents and students for the purpose of applying to colleges looking for that measurement, but not publicizing the rank.
The Latin system is based on a student's percentile placement rather than use grade point average (GPA) to rank one student against the other.
Cum laude honors students with a range of 92 to 94.99 GPA. Magna cum laude honors those with a GPA of 95 to 97. Summa cum laude distinguishes those students with a GPA of 98 and above.
Out of a graduating class of about 340, Starnes said it was unfair to split the difference between the top few students based on a small fraction of a GPA point. He said they would like to acknowledge the top 75 students rather than an exclusive group of the top one, two, three or four using class rank.
Jeffrey Miller, High School Counselor, noted that fewer and fewer colleges are using class rank to decide between applicants for admission. Large schools like Penn State University, which had approximately 57,000 applications, has no choice but to utilize the sharply decisive class rank system to separate students.
Different board members went back and forth discussing the merits and draw backs of the different systems. One member then asked to hear from the students who were present.
All three students agreed that that they have witnessed hard competition for the elusive and envious top class ranks.
Senior Luke Bond said that if all courses weighed the same, it would be harder to attain a definite class number to boast. Although the Advanced Placement physics course may be more valuable to class rank, he said he chose Consumer Math which applies more to his goals. There are other courses, such as cooking or theater, available to students, who should pick what is best for them and not worry about class ranking.
Students will try to do their very best whether they are #1 or #25, said Erika Maxson.
Kaitlin Kresse said she seen students fight over a thousandth of a GPA point. She said a student should be able to enjoy the experience of graduation and not have the stress over a small fraction of a point that can make or break a person in terms of rank.