District removes class rank from student transcripts
Standing in line at Haagen Dazs in the Mall of America, senior Eunice Lee received a text with an attached link to a news article from KMBC news titled “Blue Valley school district explains why it’s dropping class rank.” Her gut reaction: disappointment. Her No. 1 class rank would no longer be acknowledged. After analyzing the situation, Lee decided to remain positive. Realizing her role as No. 1 in her class was not the most important part about her, she stepped back into reality, ordered her double-scoop ice cream cone and continued on with her day.
Last year, a committee of counselors and administrators from the district were given the challenge of making a decision on whether or not class rank should be calculated. In May of 2016, after surveying multiple public and private institutions across the country, as well as contacting multiple scholarship programs and local and non-local colleges, the district reached a decision to stop ranking students based on their weighted and unweighted GPAs.
“What we found is that there are many high-performing, both public and private, school districts across the country who are not ranking students anymore because they did not feel like it was an accurate reflection of how students are performing,” assistant superintendent of academic services Tonya Merrigan said.
Merrigan noted that multiple students with over 4.0 GPAs applied for scholarships and colleges, but did not receive a scholarship or get admitted because they were not in the top 10 or 25 percent of their class. Merrigan said most likely — had their class rank not been noted, requiring colleges and scholarship programs to review multiple data points and do a little more digging — these students would have been awarded the scholarship money or been admitted.
“Again, because so many schools in the country don’t do this, it was penalizing [our students] in many cases,” Merrigan said. “[Removing class rank] makes our students able to stand out based on how they perform in the class. They are still going to have a GPA and they’re still going to have to perform well in their academic classes.”
Whether or not class rank is available at other schools in the country, assistant principal and curriculum and instruction principal Jason Peres said he agrees with the district’s decision to remove class rank and believes doing so will not hurt any student. He said ranking puts many at a disadvantage knowing that students with very high GPAs can still be considered 30th in the class, an inadequate representation of the student.
“As a school district, we want our students to have the best competitive edge that they can have nationally, and we are noticing that the trend nationally is no longer reporting class rank on a transcript,” Peres said.
Not only does class rank encourage competitiveness among students, but Peres also said he believes it enables colleges or scholarship programs to base their decisions off a singular number.
“I think it is kind of time to change how we look at kids, especially with the amount of kids going to universities and how highly competitive they are,” Peres said. “Students are more than just a number; they are more than that rank, and that rank so disproportionately reflects what they are able to do. We should be looking at multiple data points in order to determine whether a kid would fit into [a] program.”
Peres said he hopes this change will improve chances of scholarship awards or college acceptance while also releasing tension between students within close rank proximity of each other.
“By making this change, we hope that high school becomes a more collaborative experience where you are willing to work with other kids and you don’t see other kids as a threat to your success in high school,” Peres said.
With more collaboration and less individual focus, Lee’s assertions agree with Peres: that class rank is not a correct indication of someone’s accomplishments or qualifications to get into a school or receive a scholarship.
“I don’t like the concept of class rank because I think it fosters an unnecessarily competitive atmosphere,” Lee said. “Honestly, the difference between people ranked first or 21st can be as simple as a scheduling problem or one B, especially at a school of Southwest’s caliber. That’s not a proper indicator of someone’s intelligence or work ethic.”
For some students, like junior Saketh Bhavanasi, this news did not produce as positive of a reaction. Bhavansi said he prefers the calculation and reporting of class rank as an incentive to work harder to get to the top or stay there.
“I think we should have class ranks because they allow students to work for a goal,” Bhavanasi said. “People think it makes some students feel bad about their rank, but it shows them that if they work harder, they can improve. It gives them a scale that they can use to compare themselves and it’s more like the real world.”
While Lee, unlike Bhavanasi, agrees with the decision to remove class rank, she has had some hesitations as well.
“There are a lot of risks involved with removing class rank. I read a story — I believe from the New York Times — a while ago about Vanderbilt, and how admission rates were lowest for students whose schools did not rank, as opposed to schools who do,” Lee said. “It forces some admission officers to do one of two things: pay more attention to your ACT or approximate an artificial class rank by looking at data from your high school.”
Knowing these apprehensions from students would occur, the school district has offered students who started high school with a class rank —class of 2019 and older— the opportunity to choose whether or not to report their class rank when sending their transcripts to colleges or scholarship programs. This provides those who have had access to class rank in the past the decision to keep it or not. However, beginning with the class of 2020, this access will no longer be available.
“Our thought is that if you are that No. 1 kid, or you wanted to put that No. 1 rank, then you would be able to put your GPA up there, you would be able to put your ACT and SAT scores up there and we think that is justification as to where you stand nationally and competitively,” Peres said. “We don’t think you need a class rank to show that you are a stellar student. I feel like you would have the resume that shows ‘Hey, I’m a high quality individual.’”