Williamsville Central School District

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Williamsville Schools eliminate class rank

In September, the Williamsville Board of Education voted unanimously to eliminate class rank at the district's three high schools, beginning with the current freshmen class (Class of 2021).

The decision came after almost a decade of discussion and research conducted by the school district, which included a survey of parents, students and faculty administered in June 2016. The survey found that most respondents wanted to see class rank eliminated.

“We have been talking about the possibility of removing class rank in Williamsville for more than decade,” said Superintendent Scott Martzloff. “Class rank doesn’t define what a student can offer. The trend among colleges nationwide is moving away from class rank.”

Key considerations:

  • The differences in grade-point averages among high-achieving students are often statistically insignificant - sometimes less than a one-hundredth of a point. Often in Williamsville, a student with a 95% grade point average is not even ranked in the top 25 percent.  Our students may be overlooked for admission to colleges or scholarship consideration due to their rank. According to J.T. Duck, director of admissions at Swarthmore College, “A student might place in the middle of his class but go to one of the best high schools in the country. Why should that kid be penalized and made to look average when he's phenomenal?" [Stepping Out of Rank bySarah McKibben, ASCD Newsletter, September 2017 | Volume 59 | Number 9]
  • Research shows the number of colleges that view class rank as an important consideration has dropped significantly. Most colleges have adopted a more holistic approach to the admissions process. Important factors include the rigor of the academic program, GPA, SAT and ACT scores, essay or writing samples, and counselor/teacher recommendations.  When rank is not provided, a student’s application is evaluated based on these factors.  
  • According to the annual "State of College Admission" survey from National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), in 2006, 26 percent of college admissions officers said class rank was of "considerable importance" in admissions decisions. By 2015, that number dropped to 14 percent with almost half of admissions officers surveyed saying class rank is of "limited" to "no importance."
  • Almost 60% of high schools across the country do not rank their students. High schools that have eliminated class rank report no adverse effect for their students when it comes to the college admissions process or to the awarding of scholarships.
  •  While Williamsville is the first district in Western New York to eliminate class rank, schools across the state including nearby Rochester have not used class rank for years.
  • Students have reported high levels of anxiety and stress related to the positioning that occurs when calculating class rank. Rather than enrolling in courses they’re interested in, some students instead select courses with greater “weighting” strictly because of the class rank calculation. 

Williamsville recognizes the importance of rigorous, challenging coursework, a diversified learning experience, and the personal and emotional growth of every student.  The elimination of class rank will not impact our commitment to these values. Academic excellence will continue to be recognized and celebrated.

Each high school will determine how to select student speakers at graduation ceremonies. Williamsville East, for example, already has a long-standing tradition that opens up the opportunity to speak at graduation to all interested students. Williamsville North and South high schools intend to seek student input on creating a new graduation tradition to replace that of valedictorian and salutatorian speeches.