Monday's "City Life" Show will be on the air again on Saturday morning. The first half hour featured Ms Linda King and a discussion of Lowell's Sixth Conference on Ending Homelessness, this time focusing on Veterans. The conference was today and it was a success, in that it helped share experiences and spread the word. It is not surprising to me, but it is saddening, that social welfare systems in this Commonwealth and these United States are so complicated that even experts sometimes are confused about what is available to help the less fortunate and how that help can be applied for.
The other interesting thing on the show was a discussion of the Lowell School Committee's meeting the previous week and the question of class ranking. One of the guests on the show was Mr Dave Conway, who is a member of the Lowell School Committee. He provided us with the details of the issue.
The thrust of the issue is if using class ranking, rather than GPA, is detrimental to the chances of students applying to relatively selective colleges and universities. To cartoon the issue, there is evidence that some higher education admissions officers use class rank as a first cut instrument to determine which of the many folders they face they will actually open and look at.
My own experience with this attitude was in high school when I asked the guidance councillor's secretary to send my transcript to the Air Force Academy. I had no reason to think she even knew who I was (Graduating Class of over 700), but her quick, sharp, response was "I wouldn't hold my breath waiting, if I were you." You see, I was in the bottom half of the class, class rank wise.
It has been suggested that Lowell High School should follow the example of other communities in the area and of private schools, in dropping class rank and going strictly to GPA in ranking students. For Lowell High School this is particularly valuable in that it is a way to ameliorate the problems of the Latin Lyceum,♠ where class rank distorts the accomplishments of the Lyceum students, and not to their advantage. The Lyceum students take rigorous classes and then their grades are mixed in with those taking less rigorous classes to form a composite class rank. Doesn't seem fair to me.
So, the School Committee took action, and that is good. What concerns me is that the execution by the School Superintendent seems painfully slow. She is going to take three months to come up with a plan of execution. Those three months will be 12.5% of the sitting time of this School Committee and, in fact, the report will come out with 25% of the term already gone. For what seems like a simple change this seems like a long time. If General George Patton had waited three months for his staff to come up with a plan to change the movement of his SEVENTH ARMY during the Battle of the Bulge, the Germans might have made it clean to the channel ports.♥
But, more concerning to me is that it was suggested that this change would be implemented in 2016, for the Freshman Class entering this fall. That is the middle of a School Committee term two removed from the current one. A more cynical person might ask if this School Committee was being slow rolled.
If changing from class rank to GPA is a good idea for the Class of 2016, then it would appear to be a good idea for the Class of 2013 (the Class of 2012 being close to graduation and the damage of class rank having already been inflicted, we can write them off, except that in future requests for transcripts we could drop the class rank). Are the students of the Classes of 2013, 2014 and 2015 less worthy of consideration?
The argument could be made that the students of the Class of 2013 have already built their academic efforts around the idea of class rank, rather than GPA. Perhaps, although I expect that is a small number, balanced by the Latin Lyceum students who couldn't do that without denying the ethos of the Latin Lyceum. No, the idea of delaying until the Class of 2016 is the worst kind of bureaucrat fudgery, or perhaps merely log rolling.
One senses that the School Committee may be seen, in some quarters, as an impediment to the smooth operation of the Lowell School System.
Regards — Cliff
♠ Incidentally, there appears to be an HTML formatting error on the web page.
♥ Not really, but I am trying to make the point that Old Blood and Guts had a staff that knew how to turn on a dime and make things happen. That staff was a key to his success.
1 year ago