The Wawascene was created by Dr. Mark Stock, former Superintendent of the Wawasee Community School Corporation. Due to its local popularity, Dr. Stock has left the blog site to future Wawasee administrators.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Schools Pull Rank

Evidently a number of school districts around the country are eliminating the system of class rankings over the vicious competition that takes place for the top spots.

TIME magazine article here.


everything old is new again said...

Back in the day, when Wawasee was starting up, the top group of students (which was some number I don't recall) was recognized as a group, and the speaker was either the class president or chosen from that group.

Having attended many, many graduations over the years, I think the old system produced more interesting graduation speeches than the last six I've heard, but that's probably just me.

Most of the speeches I couldn't hear, because the sound system in the gym seems to be a Mr. Microphone with a half dead battery, but what I did hear didn't leave much of an impression.

So according to Time and Brown University, which incidentally is famous for the Brown "New Curriculum," which it instituted in 1969. The "New Curriculum" eliminates distribution requirements and mandatory A/B/C grade, allowing any course to be taken on a "satisfactory/no credit" basis.

Getting back to the Time article, which relied on quotes from spokespeople at Brown, I view this a a bit of a circular reference with regard to class rankings and the whole concept of grades.

So the question seems to me to be this: Was Wawasee 30 years ahead of this 'new' trend, or is everything old just new again?

What about a top student ranking that is lateral rather than linear?

Where is the recognition for the student that is in the top of their 'division' based on the courses they take?

Top building trades? Top Band/Choir? Top CORE-40? Top ISTEP? Top NCLB?

You would think with the advent of computers, it would be pretty easy to put the students into different 'divisions' so to speak, and then recognize them for the accomplishment they truly acheived.

I'm sure that this is done to a certain extend at the FFA banquet, the sports banquet and the building trades banquet, and even at the academic superbowl.

Would some recognition of these top acheivers at the graduation ceremony be to radical?

Or is the goal of the elmination of class rankings to homogenize the students, tell them they've all done a really, really wonderful job, give 'em all a big group hug and for gosh sakes not stigmatize the 'loser' who ranked 3rd or 13th in their class?

Dr. Mark J. Stock said...

everything old is new again...

Things go in cycles and trends as you know. I think the competition is getting pretty fierce in most places and the distinctions between #1 and #3 are fairly non-sensical in most schools.

Why? I believe it is the parity across the world in every endeavor. Whether sports, arts, academics etc. it doesn't seem to matter. Even the World Cup hinges on one or two plays. The differences between #1 and #2 are getting pretty small.

I think technology has fueled this parity because the best information and knowledge for training and development is now widely available to many and not just the elite in every field.

This is great for sports but not always for ranking schools on NCLB or recognizing good students.

BUT, Americans more than most countries are obsessed with rankings. Everyone wants to see #1 even if the difference between #1 and #10 are irrelevent in any substantive way.

I sure hope the schools who eliminated it weren't just trying to say "group hug time, we are all the same." That philosophy is just as silly because it takes real differences that might exist and pretends they aren't there either.

Some schools take all students with 4.0's and declare them all valedictorians. The argument against that is that it doesn't encourage students to take difficult courses, which is why some schools have weighted difficult courses. This of course spreads the rankings out instead of lumping everyone at the top.

No perfect answer I guess.

just a taxpaying patron said...

I don't normally go back to old posts, but this week, WNDU-16 has featured stories on the summer 'brain drain'. I saw the second part last night.

The transcripts and broadband video are at the website.

One thing that caught my attention was this: “We've seen a lot more competition in the last several years,” says Diana Hess of IUSB.

So, if there is indeed competition for better grades and thereby an improved class ranking, and you are writing a story for Time, or if you are leaning to the far left of left as Brown University does, then running a piece about the elimination of class rankings or citing an 'expert' at Brown advances your own political agenda.

I'll draw my conclusion that contrary to Time and Brown, rankings have a place in education.

And I'll also conclude that the 'old fashioned method' that Wawasee used to have provided recognition across a broader cross section of the student body than the really old fashioned system that Wawasee has in place today.

Anonymous said...

It appears to me that the spokesman from Brown is saying that not having rankings increases the difficulty of his job. I'm not sure I see how that advances the "agenda" of Time Magazine and Brown University.

It would also appear to me that the issue is not whether or not rankings have a place in education, but rather, what weight should be placed on those rankings.