VIRGINIA

Alexandria City Public Schools consider ending class rankings

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Graduating at the top of the class may soon become history in Alexandria.

The city public school's superintendent is considering ending class ranking.

Alexandria would join Fairfax and Montgomery counties in tossing out the practice of naming a valedictorian.

The theory is doing so would encourage students to take more elective classes that interest them over classes that would simply boost their ranking.

T.C. Williams Valedictorian Charlotte Clinger said, "A lot of people have to choose between either being highly ranked or pursuing maybe band or drama or something like that."

Clinger never registered for a new class without first calculating the cost of doing so.

The T.C. Williams senior is ranked "Best in Class" out of 668 students.

"I don't think that we should be necessarily working towards just being number one," Clinger added. "What people should be striving for, I think, is just to take classes that they're interested in."

She and many other students pass up electives in favor of advanced placement courses that are more heavily weighted.

Edom Tesfa, a junior at T.C. Williams, said, "I've been hearing rumors about who's first and who's second and who's third...people complaining about how they can't reach the top."

"It's a shame," T.C. Williams Principal Suzanne Maxey added. '...so we talked about what other schools all over this nation are doing, and what they're doing is they're doing away with class ranking."

Maxey and her colleagues spent the past six months doing research.

School Counseling Director Greg Forbes said, "College representatives have shared with me that they no longer consider class ranking as part of the college application process or the admissions process."

Nine out of 11 colleges polled say class rank has no bearing on a student's application. The remaining two schools say it doesn't matter if they have some way of gauging how a student compares to his or her classmates, like GPA.

Alexandria Superintendent Morton Sherman says the top students will always be recognized.

"For example, when I was a high school principal, we honored the top 10 scholars. You didn't know who was first. You didn't know who was 10th, and the 10 were on stage," Sherman said.

PTSA President Marianne Hetzer added, "What I'm hearing from parents, by and large, is that the majority seem to be either okay with it or neutral on the situation with a very small minority vehemently opposed to the elimination of class rank...They think that the competition is a good thing for the students."

The fate of class rankings lies in the superintendent's hands. He hopes to make a decision by Thursday, Dec. 20 when the school board meets.

Approximately 50 percent of high schools in the country do not rank.

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