Wednesday, July 15, 2020

GF School panel urges end to valedictorian & naming of top 10

By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor

The Glens Falls City School District “Class Rank Committee” is recommending that the school stop naming valedictorians and salutatorians, and disclose class rankings only for college and scholarship applications.

Trent Clay, assistant superintendent for curriculum, said the committee will now discuss it with superintendent Paul Jenkins and the Board of Education, who will decide whether to make any changes or keep things the same.

“No decisions have been made,” Mr. Clay told The Chronicle. “I want to emphasize that these are just recommendations at this point…People coming to graduation this year can expect a traditional graduation ceremony.”

Contacted for comment, Mr. Jenkins said the committee’s recommendations were not on the agenda for the June 10th school board meeting as of May 31st.

High school principal Tammy Silvernell said, “Any changes that might be made would happen after this year. Any changes would need to phase in over time.”

If the recommendations are implemented, she said, “There would be an open audition process for students who would like to speak at graduation,” adding that in her experience she has found that valedictorians and salutatorians often are uncomfortable speaking in front of crowds.

“Each school deals with recognition [of top students] differently…our recommendations include recognizing students at graduation and after every marking period.”

How the district would do that is still being discussed, she said.

Does ranking ‘disenfranchise’ some?

Mrs. Silvernell said the committee talked about the role of a public school.

“Should we be selecting talent or developing talent?” she asked. “Colleges are selecting talent. We have a responsibility to develop all of our students. We expect academic success for all, and that definition varies from student to student.”

Mr. Clay said, “The number of economically disadvantaged families in the district has grown tremendously in the last decade. This was a way to expand the conversation. Even students who don’t make the class rankings have value.”

For instance, for BOCES students, “it’s hard to compete for GPA because they often don’t have the access to college-level courses,” Mrs. Silvernell said.

Mr. Clay said because of stricter federal education guidelines, “graduation rates are tracked in a much more methodical way now, and it changes what schools have to do. We are now held accountable for all students to graduate, and the issue is, does class rank disenfranchise some students?

“…If we are required to graduate 100% of our students…the logical conclusion is that our role is to develop talent and not select talent.”

Qby., LG don’t name valedictorians

Queensbury and Lake George high schools no longer name valedictorians and salutatorians, but do identify their top two students for The Chronicle to include with our Valedictorian and Salutatorian profiles. Queensbury names its Top 10 students; Lake George names it top 10%.

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