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Maine District 207 Considers Eliminating Class Rank

Move would help colleges look at "whole student," administrator says.

Students in Maine Township High School District 207 could find one bit of information dropping off their transcripts in the future: their class ranks.

The District 207 school board continued its discussion of whether to eliminate class rankings – following the example of several suburban districts, including New Trier High School District 203, Stevenson High School District 125, and Glenbrook High School District 225.

Cutting class rank from student transcripts would reduce the emphasis on very small differences in grade point averages, reduce the advantage of students coming from less competitive high schools, discourage competition between students and make students more likely to choose classes based on their interests instead of their effect on class rank, said Barbara Dill-Varga, the assistant superintendent for curriculum.

Studies conducted by several school districts that have made the same move found that students’ chances of getting into a variety of colleges were not hurt by eliminating class rank from their transcripts, she said.

Board member Edward Mueller, for one, isn’t buying it.

“If you’re an admissions officer and you have two resumes in front of you and one says the student was in the top 12 percent of his class and the other one doesn’t, which one are you going to take?” he said.

John and Tina Sclafani, parents of a Maine South student, agreed.

“The top schools are receiving 10, 20, 30,000 applicants,” John Sclafani said. “If the ranking isn’t there, that file is going to get pushed to the side and maybe they’ll look at it later.”

But parent Kathy O’Grady said her daughter was not admitted to the college she originally wanted to attend because her class rank at Maine South was not high enough. With a B average, she was not in the top half of her class. At a less competitive school, she most likely would have made the cutoff, O’Grady said.

Maine West High School principal Audrey Haugan talked about a student who saw his rank drop from first in his class to third because a non-honors class he took was recorded with his real grade – an A – instead of pass/fail, which does not affect a student’s grade point average and which he had asked to be recorded. The non-weighted A was enough to move him down two places. Fortunately, he discovered the mistake before transcripts went out.

Board members suggested that before the district makes a decision, it should consider allowing students to choose whether to have their class rank listed on their transcripts. That would allow the top students to garner any benefits from their rank while protecting other students from having to compete against students from less competitive schools.

But Mueller suggested that class rank be included on other documents, such as grade reports.

“I lost my innocence about grades when my son was in seventh grade and we got a letter saying he was on the honor roll,” Mueller said. But when he counted, 185 out of 225 students in his class received honors.

“Class rank tests something and it tests it accurately,” he said.

Lauren O'Keefe May 04, 2011 at 08:12 PM
I graduated 16th in a class of 400 from one of the Maine schools and I really think that my class rank helped me not only to get into college, but also to receive the full tuition academic scholarship that I received.
Clark Kent May 05, 2011 at 01:24 AM
Psst! gotta tell ya a secret--- colleges also evaluate a prospective student on the basis of WHAT school the kid comes from. Admissions offices know the difference between a Maine Township, a New Trier and a DuSable. The valedictorian of each is qualitatively different, and that is important to know. Class rank is important only when in tandem with a viable school product. Here is yet another attempt to homogenize the smart and talented student with the average...or worse. Educators, school "administrators" (and their willing dupes on the boards of education) prate their obnoxious and pernicious doctrine of cranial egalitarianism: Everybody's Equal! Hooray! The more information that is presented to a college on a student’s status and ranking reflects a more considered and reasoned decision for acceptance. Guess what? This is a world of success through competition, comparison and competency, not a chaotic democracy of feigned equality. These educators with all their silly theories about “critical thinking,” “self-motivation,” “academic preparedness” and the rest of the litany of unsupportable musings have done much to lower the educational levels of the very charges they claim to “prepare.” It is not true that "we can be whatever we want to be." If it were, I'd be in the White House and our economy would be prosperous.
Paul Young May 05, 2011 at 03:16 PM
Good comment Clark. The real world is going to edge out or marginalize those that are ill prepared to succeed. Placing artificial 'koombayah we're all the same' non-labels on these kids will only make the lack of success in the real world more destructive for them. I was told by my high school guidance counselor that someone has to be the top of the class and someone has to be at the bottom. Guess what, it's true. It made me try harder to prove that I didn't deserve to be at the bottom because when my class mates were talking about their class rank I realized that being 350 out of 513 was not where I wanted to be. Take away that motivation, what's the sense of working hard to succeed?

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