Published in the June 10, 2016 edition
MELROSE — Back in the summer of 2014, when the School Committee agreed with administators and voted to eliminate class rank at Melrose High, members were told that ranking students puts an emotional strain on them.
In the PowerPoint presentation made by Principal Marianne Farrell and assistant principals Jason Merrill and Stephen Fogarty, several reasons were given for getting rid of the traditional ranking of students, not the least of which was the fostering of unhealthy competition.
The fact that there is no class rank got the attention of Boston TV stations this week, in the aftermath of Friday’s Melrose High graduation. Madeleine Carbonneau gave what was called the “Academic Address.”
Lost in the minor tempest over class rank was the fact that the School Committee voted to eliminate it two years ago. It took effect this year.
According to the 2014 presentation, ranking students “places 90 percent of our students at a disadvantage instead of giving every student credit for his/her accomplishments and records.” It was believed that the education at Melrose High should be challenging for every students and not just the top 10 and/or Honors students.
Colleges like MIT will use class rank if it is provided, but it is to no disadvantage to the student if it is not provided.
Also, the top 10 school districts in the state at the time did not have class rank. They were Lexington, Wellesley, Weston, Concord-Carlisle, Newton North, Newton South, Acton-Boxborough, Brookline, Winchester, Reading and Belmont.
To be sure, School Committee members and administrators studying the issue had some problems with the proposal.
For example, the highest achieving students may feel they will miss an opportunity to become #1 or #2 in the class. Another concern expressed was who would speak at graduation. Merrill told the school board students would audition for the part.
The goal, Farrell said, is for college admissions people to read student applications and see the whole student, not just a particular number.
The proposal was passed by the School Committee 5-2. Christine Casatelli and Kristin Thorp argued two years ago that competition is not a bad thing because it is around us every day and students should get used to it.
Others, like Carrie Kourkoumelis, said the highest performing public and private schools had moved away from class rank and felt Melrose should too.