By JUSTINE MCGUIRE
Capital News Service
LANSING – Petoskey High School has done away with class rankings, but some other Northern Michigan high schools still see value in comparatively sizing students up.
The Petoskey School Board voted in March to eliminate the ranking of students within a graduating class. There will no longer be a first or a fifth-ranked student or a thirty-third ranked one.
Principal Jim Kanine said that college counselors at the top 10 universities that graduates attend told the district that removing rankings would not hurt student admissibility. The list includes Michigan State, Grand Valley State, University of Michigan, Central Michigan and Northern Michigan.
It’s also true at Ferris State University, where the admissions office doesn’t consider class rank, but only grade point average and ACT scores when deciding whom to accept, said Sandy Gholston, news services and social media manager.
Petoskey ranked students but hadn’t recognized a valedictorian or salutatorian for at least seven years. When the question arose of unfair rankings of students who don’t take difficult classes, the district couldn’t think of a good reason to keep rankings, Kanine said.
Each district determines whether to rank its students and how to calculate the rankings. The practices vary across the state, said Jan Ellis, deputy director of communications for the Department of Education.
For example, Brimley High School, Alpena High School and Traverse City Central High School have retained class rankings, but in their own ways.
Brian Reattoir, Brimley’s principal, said the district has no plans to get rid of class rankings.
Although the ranking often isn’t considered for college admission, it does affect scholarship offers, he said.
He added that the rankings make students more competitive and drive them to do better, especially those who want to be considered for valedictorian or salutatorian because they must take college prep courses.
Like Petoskey, Alpena High doesn’t recognize a valedictorian or salutatorian, but it does honor the top 10 percent of students at graduation.
Alpena’s senior counselor, Lori Vought, said she doesn’t like the class rankings because the spread of decimal points is so miniscule that it doesn’t mean as much as people make it out to.
Unfortunately, ranking is still important to many students as they apply for scholarships, Vought said. Parents have complained about the rankings and students have shown up at her office crying.
Getting rid of rankings is worth a discussion, but there isn’t a policy change in the works, Vought said.
She said that colleges still ask for rankings and probably haven’t caught onto the fact that they don’t mean much. Also, comparing rankings at small and large schools is like “comparing apples to oranges.”
Traverse City Central’s principal, Rick Vandermolen, also expressed reservations about the ranking system. He said that it’s important to recognize students who achieve high levels of academic success, but the rankings leave out students who work hard and go on to be productive citizens, but don’t meet the criteria.
His school considers grade point average, number of credits and the courses taken when calculating rankings. It also ranks only with percentages, starting with the top 1 percent and going down in increments to the top 50 percent. The school does not recognize a valedictorian or salutatorian.
Vandermolen said he isn’t opposed to the ranking system, but wants to do more for hardworking students who don’t score as well on the criteria.
By JUSTINE MCGUIRE