Haverhill Schools Consider New Class Ranking System

Parent Pamela Conte discusses class rankings during a March Haverhill School Committee meeting.

The Haverhill School Committee is due to revisit the recent high school class ranking controversy tonight as it discusses a proposed new ranking calculation method.

Haverhill High’s school counseling department has recommended to Superintendent James F. Scully the high school move to a percentile-based class ranking method (top 10 percent, top 25 percent, etc.) in place of the current “quality point calculation” method.

Parents complained in March honors and advanced placement students—representing the top 20 percent of learners—are losing class rankings to “middle of the class academically” Early College participants. Parents reported advanced students saw “drastic changes,” reducing student rankings by as much as “20 or more spots.” Parent Pamela Conte said students only recently noticed the impact.

“They noticed that the kids who were in the top 10 had all dropped down, and there were kids in there now that hadn’t been in there before. And then the kids seemed to figure out who are these kids and why did they suddenly drop in to these higher spots. They started to realize they were kids that were participating in the Early College program,” she said.

Haverhill School Committeeman Paul A. Magliocchetti.

Haverhill School Committeeman Paul A. Magliocchetti.

Parents received backing from School Committeeman Paul A. Magliocchetti.

“The Early College Parents wanted to let everyone know how hard their students work in that program, what those classes are like and that they are legitimate college classes. And, I think the AP parents are trying to say, well if they are that way, then let’s compare the syllabuses, and let’s try to iron this out and make sure we’re getting this correctly,” Magliocchetti said.

The current class ranking system multiplies grade point average (GPA) value by the weight of the group to which the pupil is assigned, according to documents. Advanced Placement (AP) students receive the highest weight factor of “3.0,” followed by factor “2.7” for the Honors Accelerated group, factor “2.5” for Honors students and factor “2.0” for College Preparatory students. A survey conducted by the counseling department found other high schools in eastern Massachusetts use either a percentile method or do not rank their students.

According to a statement by the department, “The current trend in college admissions has been a move away from exact rank and either an elimination of its use in the process or a decline in the importance. In fact, according to the 2011 National Association for College Admission Counseling, ‘The factor showing the largest decline in importance is class ranking.’”

Haverhill School Commiteeman Joseph J. Bevilacqua.

Haverhill School Commiteeman Joseph J. Bevilacqua.

Committeeman Joseph J. Bevilacqua said he was concerned about the public debate.

“The success of Haverhill High School is the well-being of every single student in that system and those that are coming, and I’m hoping that we get through this, we get a resolution and that people are accepting it because of the fact we need to move together as a system and I’m very concerned that kids have felt diminished in their educational development who have taken the Early College admission program,” Bevilacqua said.

The Haverhill School Committee meets at 7 p.m., tonight, in city council chambers at Haverhill City Hall.