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Class ranking takes another turn in U-CF School District

05/10/2016 12:31PM ● Published by J. Chambless

The Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

As the much-analyzed issue of announcing class rankings for graduating seniors at Unionville High School heads to a final vote at next week's meeting of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board, some final debate on May 9 put a new wrinkle in the proposed plan.

After months of meetings and sometimes heated arguments between parents, board members and administrators, there is a new proposal to list only those students with a GPA of 4.5 and above.

Ken Batchelor, the assistant to the superintendent, told the board at a work session on Monday evening, “Two months ago, the board voted on a new policy for class ranking. After that vote, there was some discussion about whether we should continue to look at how the administrative guideline should work. We're recommending that we move forward with the guideline as published at the time of that vote.

“This has been a challenging issue for all of us,” Batchelor said. “The initial discussion was about removing any kind of decile rank, and having nothing as we move forward. The compromise, in the vote that came forward two months ago, was in favor of removing deciles. Right now, the only change that we're recommending is changing 'principal scholars' to the term 'Unionville scholars.' We will continue to monitor this next year.”

Board member Robert Sage said he wanted the student with the top GPA announced, and suggested the board consider that possible change when they vote at next week's meeting.

Board member Michael Rock objected, saying, “The whole point of eliminating the decile was not to disadvantage students who are not in the first decile. Everything that we add back takes away what we did. We started out trying to help people who were below the top decile, and everything that creeps back is helping people in the top decile and above. My favorite option is that every student should be ranked from one on down, and we should release that information. Otherwise, we're just harming people.”

Board member Elise Anderson said, “I don't think we can come out on either side of this doing no harm. I believe that colleges are looking for passion and commitment, whether that happens to be through dedication to grades, or dedication to football, or whatever. I think that's important to recognize. There are many intangibles to be considered in this equation.”

Board member Carolyn Daniels said, “As a parent of kids who have been through the system, it's very difficult to quantify what hurts or helps when college applications are being considered. What concerns me now is these two proposals we're going to be voting on were not brought up to the committee members, they were not in the presentations given by the administration, they were not in the data collected from 27 high schools. In all fairness to everyone that I represent, to have these ideas surface so long after the fact almost makes a mockery of all of the open meetings and discussions that led us to this place.

“Most important, I didn't personally have a problem with the decile system,” Daniels added. “Through this process, I saw that the most students could be helped by this system. I find it hard to understand how the district and administration could support a proposal that will no longer recognize the top decile, but will now recognize 4.5 and above. So, because over the last four or five years, the bottom of the top decile has been about 4.25, we are now putting that very small number of students into something like a second tier. And by recognizing the highest GPA, that, to me, hurts every other student in the school. I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Rock here, and I ask the administration and the school board – what goal are we trying to accomplish? What's driving this, and how will this help the most students?”

Board member John Murphy commented, “The harm that was being done to the second, third and fourth decile students was being tagged as a 'second decile,' and by admitting them, a college might feel that they were diluting their freshman class. But at the same time, I think we're putting all our top-performing students into this range that's not giving them enough to distinguish themselves.”

Reading a statement from board member Gregg Lindner, who could not attend the meeting, district superintendent John Sanville said that Lindner “agreed with the compromise approach, approved 7-2 by the board, and I believe that this was a reasonable step forward. Not as far as I wanted, but a reasonable first step. My vote assumed that, until we had experience with the newly modified policy and guidelines, that we would not make any other changes. I would not support either of the following: An additional gradation, or bucket, that was GPA 4.5 and above, or the addition of the top GPA. These additions do nothing positive for any of the students, and can only do harm to some segment of our student body.”

Summing up, board president Vic Dupuis said, “So, our options next week will be: Any member of the board can make a motion to specifically add the top GPA, and that can be an up and down vote; and any member can make a motion to add the 4.5 category range, and that can be an up and down vote.

“It's my feeling that we're not looking to change the policy – just vote on these two, specific additions to the administrative guidelines,” Dupuis added.

Sanville said, “If the board wants to do a la carte votes, they can. One of those votes could be eliminating the guideline entirely.”

Early in the meeting, the board saw proposals for carpet replacement at three schools. The bids will be up for votes next week. Rick Hostetler, the supervisor of buildings and grounds, said the bid for work at Hillendale Elementary School “is slightly higher than last year. That's because they didn't realize that the removal of carpet at Hillendale is a bear. We're still well under budget. It's about a $5,000 increase over last year.”

The bid for removal of the old carpet and installation of new carpet at Hillendale is $40,307.40. The bids for carpeting at Pocopson Elementary School is $7,324; and at Unionville Elementary, the bid is $5,764.

For more information and a schedule of upcoming meetings, visit www.ucfsd.org.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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