Our opinion: The never-ending story

We thought we detected a note of frustration from Warren County School Board member Jack Werner during Monday night’s installment of “What Do We Do About Class Rank?”, the board’s long-running continuing drama.

Once again, as with all good soap operas, there was no conclusion.

Tune in next time, when the board will begin again the Sisyphean task of molding the details and minutiae of its class ranking policy to make it applicable to every situation and every condition, impervious to the temptation of parents and students to “work” the system, and suitable for inscription in granite.

We have written in this space our contention that the school district could save itself a truckload of problems and cure its recurrent angst over the subject simply by doing what a growing number of school districts are doing – adopting the Latin system of academic recognition.

Thanks to an alumnus on the board, President Arthur Stewart, we now know that Allegheny College uses high school class rank as part of its consideration for admission. That’s fine. Certainly, armed with a pocket calculator, the school district could present each graduating senior with their own class rank to pass along to those institutions like Allegheny which use them. And yet, Allegheny, a highly reputable institution like many others, relies on a Latin system to recognize academic achievement for its own graduates, many of whom may be applying to the graduate programs of other institutions to further their studies.

We don’t believe that class rank – the win, place and show of competitive academics – is a particularly accurate measure of academic achievement.

Mr. Stewart and some other board members do.

They essentially believe that competition is a driving force behind achievement. However, to compete successfully, one should have some knowledge of the performance level of his or her competitor. Only then can one make adjustments to pull ahead of that other person.

Again, we don’t believe that on the high school level, competition for the title of valedictorian is a driving force for more than one or two students. We do believe it is the impetus for most of the problems that have made class ranking such a difficult and complex problem for the board.

One might argue then, how do we measure academic achievement without ranking? We do it already. We do it with grades and grade point averages.

As has been shown frequently, the difference in grade point averages among the top three or even five graduates from Warren County high schools can be as little as one one-hundredth of a point, making the distinction among them so miniscule as to be meaningless.