BOE officials debate class rank

NASHUA – Students and district faculty members brought concerns over class rank to the attention of the Board of Education Monday night during the groups regular meeting.

Nashua Technology Center South Director Mike McQuilkin said while he and Nashua Technology Center North Director Amanda Bastoni were at a CTE Directors meeting last fall, they met a group of students from the Technology Student Association, a career and technical organization not affiliated with the schools. McQuilkin said he and Bastoni learned that students on their own time were doing CADD, engineering, manufacturing and design, but weren’t enrolled in CTE classes at school. They found that a common theme among these students was that they were choosing not to take CTE classes, because they are not weighted the same as an Advanced Placement class, ultimately hurting their class rank.

“These students could be working in the field of their choice during the day in one of our classes – CADD, mManufacturing, machineing, but instead felt the pressure to sign up for another course because it was weighted more,” McQuilkin said. “This made me feel like we are doing a disservice to our students.”

McQuilkin said, once again, at a Girls in Tech Day event, students were saying they had no intention of taking these classes, though they interested them, because it would hurt their rank.

Accompanying McQuilkin and Bastoni Monday was a group of students from both Nashua High School North and South.

Former Board of Education Nashua High School South Student Representative Hailey Sweeney shared a statement she found in researching class rank, from a man named Thomas Guskey, which stated that ranking students doesn’t really benefit students and instead fosters a competitive environment.

Sweeney said right now in the school district, there is a huge focus on social and emotional learning, with part of that being goal setting. Sweeney said what this has turned into is students having their only goals focus on becoming the best. Sweeney added that decisions made in trying to be the best are becoming cloudy, with students cheating and focusing solely on academic enhancing activities.

In addition, she said, “We believe if we amend this current system, we will motivate more students to take CTE classes.”

Joshua Gow, a freshmen at Nashua High School South, said one of the most prominent issue he and other students found regarding the situation was that kids are taking class that do not align with their interests, and they are taking classes because of its weight on rank.

Nashua High School North student Alexandra Pickett said she has taken six AP classes to better her chances to get a higher GPA, and didn’t get to take any CTE engineering classes, rather she took classes such as AP biology, AP chemistry, AP physics – all great classes she said, but not something she was passionate about like engineering. Pickett said she wanted to see the next generation of students taking other classes and being able to say they signed up for a class because they wanted to, not because they felt like they had to.

Senior Varun Lingadal, who has taken 13 AP classes, was in the same boat as Pickett. He said he took Biotechnology 1, a CTE class that he enjoyed, but was unable to take Biotechnology 2, because he was taking another AP class instead.

Student Reuben Vinzo said if they wanted to encourage students to pursue their interest, “the ranking system is not going to help.”

Various suggestions to the issue were discussed, such as giving more weight to CTE classes, or switching the ranking system to percentiles or the Latin system with cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude.

Later on in the meeting, board member Dotty Oden made a motion that the BOE direct the superintendent to convene a task force, headed by central office, comprised of students, teachers, guidance counselors and other key figures, in studying whether the class rank system should be used. She said should the task force come to a conclusion that it needs to be changed, there should be a suggestion submitted no later than February 2020.

“I’m bring this motion forward tonight to ensure we are doing what is best for our students,” Oden explained. “I believe we owe it to all our students to do a study into the issue.”

Superintendent Jahmal Mosley voiced concerns over the matter, that there would need to be a board liason, and they would have to determined whether this would be on a volunteer basis. Mosley asked that they establish a timeline, and as he mentioned, they are currently in the midst of the strategic plan.

Ultimately, the board voted 7-2 in favor of the motion.