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BOE Votes to Eliminate Class Ranking

Following the Pledge of Allegiance and a brief welcome and holiday greetings to guests and students by Board President Michael Pappas, the regular board meeting of the Levittown School District on Wednesday, Dec. 14 was reconvened following a usual executive session.

A lengthy discussion about the district’s class rank policy was held. Assistant Superintendent Debbie Rifkin said, “Colleges use a variety of factors when making admission decisions for students; they look at their GPA, they look at their activity sheets, they look at the level of challenge of the course they’ve taken throughout their high school career, they look at SAT scores, their personal essays and if schools provide ranking information they look at that information as well.”

The Levittown School District currently provides class-ranking information to colleges for its high school students. Ranking is based on weighted GPA of all credit bearing courses a student has taken through 11th grade. The top 10 percent of the class receives a numeric rank (1, 2, 3, etc.) after the top 10 percent and up to the top 50th percent students are ranked by deciles. After the 50th percent, students are ranked by quartile.

Rifkin said the district has been analyzing its own policy on ranking. With a committee, the district has been looking at how other school districts have handled ranking, with and without it; and they have looked at how it is affecting the students.

She said the committee’s first concern is, “We have some excellent students who are squeezed out of the top 10 percent by .01 percent.” She explained how forgetting a single homework assignment could mean the difference for a top performing student to be excluded from the class’s top 10.

Rifkin said the committee’s second concern with keeping class ranking is that “ranking is a comparative number and it’s a student’s relative standing among their classmates.” By not being in the top half of a class, Rifkin said a college may not consider a student for admission. This hurts more students than providing class ranking helps the top half. “Students in the bottom half are really being penalized; we are really doing our kids a disservice,” she said. She said the committee has surveyed 39 school districts and 33 have eliminated class ranking. Guidance chairpersons will however share class ranking privately in a case that a rank is needed for a student to obtain a scholarship or other similar circumstance.

Rifkin said the administrators’ recommendation is to phase the ranking elimination in with the current 10th-graders (class of 2014). Superintendent James Grossane recommended phasing the elimination in with the class of 2013, having seen certain instances of students not be selected for college admission because in the specific class rank, the students were in the third quartile with a GPA of 86.

The members asked for the opinions of the student liaisons in attendance, who both agreed they would like to keep class ranking, for the competition and personal satisfaction of a measure of their achievement. They believe class ranking is a motivator, rather than a deterrent.

Grossane said, “We spoke with counselors from Tufts, Emery, UNC and we put profiles out with ranking and without ranking.” He said when they read the profiles, kids who excelled academically were not even considered when paired with their class ranking. He said the admission counselors were surprised to see that one student did not make the admissions based on grades, but admitted it was finally determined by their class rank and not their grades. “It will hurt you more to have a number than to not have a number,” he said.

The members of the board voted to eliminate class ranking with the class of 2013, by a vote of 6 to 1.

Students from East Broadway were in attendance to assist their teachers in giving an academic presentation to the board members. The second-graders demonstrated how the Envision Math program is being administered and its impact on the students who are using the program. The Envision Math program encourages students to give a verbal explanation of the math process they would use to arrive at an answer to any math problem. The “write out” process joins the other academic disciplines, reading and writing, with the arithmetic curriculum. The program is in line with the Common Core Standards.

Principal JeanMarie Wink said, “Our school has been very excited about our new Envision Math Program.”

Second-grade teacher Mrs. Anspach demonstrated the home-school connection, the new vocabulary and terminology and how parents can log in to the district’s website to view the day’s lesson plan to reinforce the lesson at home while doing homework.  

Mr. Speranza, a math reduction teacher, explained the program’s relationship to the state’s Common Core Standard, how the program is streamlining Levittown students’ learning levels to match those of students across the nation.

In addition, the walls of the LMEC were lined with artwork from the East Broadway Elementary School.

Prior to the regular board meeting, students from MacArthur’s Wind Ensemble gave a performance for a crowd in the LMEC lobby.

During the Public Be Heard session PTA President Esta Lachow addressed the board about the local movie theatre, AMC Loews on Hempstead Turnpike, submitting a request to the New York State Liquor Authority to be allowed to serve alcohol within the movie theater.

“I express my displeasure with this idea; the young people of our community currently have very few places to go to safely socialize with their friends. While I understand the goal may be to get adults away from their TV, out of their home and into a more inviting environment, my fear is that our underage students may gain access to alcohol, either by given directly or indirectly to them,” she said.

President Pappas spoke on behalf of the board to draft a resolution, which would also be sent to the Town of Hempstead on the School Board’s position, not in support of the movie theater serving alcohol to any patron.

Lachow also proudly announced that the third annual Adopt-a-Family program, chaired by herself and Gina Interdonato, provided for 177 members of the community.

“The outpouring of support from both within our community and outside of the community has been amazing,” said Lachow. The school district provided space to store donations and place to assemble the items collected.

The board thanked the donors and accepted the following gifts to the district:

-a potter’s wheel for the art department at MacArthur High School, given by Josephine Bianco, Baldwin.

-playground equipment for Summit Lane Elementary School, given by the Summit Lane Students Activities Fund.

The next regular Levittown School District Board of Education meeting will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 11 at the Levittown Memorial Education Center at 150 Abbey Lane. The public session begins at 7:30 p.m. This meeting will be devoted to reports from the superintendent of schools and board members, regular agenda items of old and new business and schedules.

Copies of the agenda are available to the residents of the district at the office of the Board of Education three days prior to the meeting date. Copies of agendas are also available three days prior to meeting date at the Levittown Public Library. Tapes of meetings are available at the Levittown Public Library.