Ask any member of Harrison's soon-to-be graduated class of 2012 for their class rank and they won't be able to tell you—and it's not just because they are already focused on their graduation parties.
For the first time, the Harrison Central School District has completely done away with class rankings in favor of the Latin honors system that breaks students into groupings based on achievement. Gone are the Valedictorian and Salutatorian, replaced this year by a group of 13 students awarded as Summa Cum Laude for maintaining above a 98 weighted grade point average throughout their high school careers.
Students in the top tier say the decision is one classmates have embraced. You can still compete for graduate honors, they say, only now the competition isn't directly with fellow seniors in a ranking system.
"It's competitive in a way where it's beneficial for everyone," said Harrison senior Robert Tiburzi, who will graduate Summa Cum Laude next week before moving on to Columbia University. "Personally, I know I wouldn't be number one, but because I wasn't labeled going into college it didn't matter what I was, it just showed what I achieved."
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Moving away from the rankings has also been a fit for this year's class, students say. Having 13 students graduate with such impressive grades doesn't happen every year and each finished with a final average within two percentage points of each other.
"It really helped our class in particular because most years you won't find 13 kids with a 98 average, that's very rare," said Lucas Wolf, who will attend Duke University in the fall. "So the kid ranked 12 or 13, any other year would be (ranked) two or three."
The movement toward the change started a few years ago and class rankings have been phased in over time. Last year the class wasn't ranked, but the top two students were still honored as Valedictorian and Salutatorian. This year rankings are gone altogether.
"I think the Summa students identified the most important change in our process of recognition," Harrison Superintendent Louis Wool said. "There is great value in offering a transparent academic standard to which many can aspire, as opposed to allowing just one or two students to be recognized for academic excellence."
While many college applications still ask for a prospective student's class rank, recent Harrison classes have instead placed their honors in another field on the application. Others simply placed their grade-point average on the page.
"It showed you had really good grades, which at some schools could have gotten you number one or number two, we just had this special class," said senior Lily Stokoe, who will attend the University of California-Los Angeles next year. "Because of this system, throughout high school we've been helping each other and working with one another."
Melissa Goldberg, a senior who will attend Northwestern University next year, agreed that the change was a good fit, particularly for this year's class.
"Since we don't have rankings anymore we never really competed against each other from the start of this," she said. "You were competing against yourself to get into the Summa group or the Magna group, whatever group your a part of."
But with 13 students finishing in the top tier of this year's graduating class, the school district had to figure out earlier this spring who would speak at graduation. This year, each of the Summa Cum Laude students were allowed to select a student who best represents the class to serve as second speaker. It was a unique experience, allowing the leaders in the classroom to select an overall leader of the class.
After much consideration, the group selected Daniel Cuneo.
"We all were really similar and we wanted to bring someone in who had a different perspective on things," said Stokoe. "Especially since we all did so well, it was nice to have that honor to choose."
The first speaker was selected out of the Summa Cum Laude students by a group of teachers. They selected Emma Adler, who will join class president Christie Nannariello who will also speak.
"I think we are all really happy with who we chose in the end," said Stokoe. "I think they'll both be great."
As the class of 2012 prepares to walk the stage at next Friday, they will leave with a long list of accomplishments. Aside from numbers and honors, students said the senior award banquet held recently showed just how successful the class has been.
At the banquet nearly 100 different students were recognized for all they have done, another reminder of the diversity of the class.
"We were like, wow, our class is awesome," Stokoe said.
This year's Harrison High School graduation will be held on June 22 at 5:30 p.m. at the concert hall at SUNY Purchase.