RHAM Parents Group facilitates discussion of class rank, guidance services
By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Mon., Sep. 30, 2013
On Sept.25, a meeting facilitated by the RHAM Parent Group sought to address two different topics related to the middle and high schools: the elimination of class rank and the function of the school guidance departments. With a first meeting held in March, the mission statement of the newly-formed parent group is to “provide a forum that allows for open communication among all educational stakeholders as we seek to understand educational issues, answer school-related questions and concerns, and work collaboratively to meet the needs of the RHAM community.”
The potential elimination of class rank was introduced by RHAM Principal Scott Leslie in January of 2013, and taken up by the parent group in an effort to solicit community input regarding the issue. The Sept. 25 meeting drew more than 50 residents seeking to learn more and to weigh in regarding the issue.
Leslie explained that nationwide changes, resulting in larger and less homogeneous student populations, have made ranking less relevant in the U.S. With at least 80 percent of high school students seeking education after graduation, “it’s a different student that is going on to colleges,” said Leslie. Likewise, colleges are using different criteria when making admission decisions, said Leslie.
Leslie explained that RHAM currently ranks using a weighted GPA system. With honors classes weighted at five points, academically-motivated students are encouraged to take courses based upon weight, rather than their interests. Leslie said that this resulted in students missing out on classes they might otherwise wish to experience. He said that students ranked below the top 10 or 20 students might be denied for college admission or scholarship awards due to rank, even with GPAs almost identical to higher-ranking students. Leslie said that 40 percent of U.S. high schools no longer report rank. The elimination of class rank, he said, would benefit the majority of students, especially those who fall below the top 20 in terms of academic achievement.
The elimination of rank provides colleges with a more balanced way of considering applicants, said Leslie. Colleges would use rank when it was provided, he said; without it, they would rely upon more relevant measures such as success in high school classes, improvement over time and involvement in activities, in addition to GPA and standardized test scores.
Many colleges, said Leslie, feel that eliminating class rank benefits students in the mid-range within highly-competitive high schools. Leslie relayed the results of an experiment conducted in Illinois. The applications of students who were rejected for college admission were resubmitted without class rank, resulting in many of the students being accepted the second time around.
Leslie’s preliminary recommendations were to eliminate class rank reporting for students beginning with the class of 2015. Class rank could still be reported when required for admission, or for scholarships such as UConn’s Presidential Scholarship Award for Connecticut valedictorians and salutatorians. Leslie also recommended retaining the practice of acknowledging the class valedictorian and salutatorian, and having them speak at commencement.
During a question and answer period, many residents spoke in favor of eliminating class rank. But there were others who had concerns. What about students who worked hard, and succeeded in securing a spot at the top of the class, some wanted to know. Would the elimination of class rank harm their chances of obtaining admission or scholarships? Leslie suggested that ranking could still be reported if needed, or if requested by the student/parent. He suggested that a common practice among schools that no longer rank was to report class rank in letters of recommendation, rather than on the transcript.
Leslie emphasized that administration did not intend to make a decision regarding class rank without obtaining further feedback from the public.
A PowerPoint presentation addressing the issue of class rank is available through the RHAM Parent Group’s new website at https://sites.google.com/site/rhamparentsgroup/. The site also contains a summary of the second half of the Sept. 25 meeting, facilitated by RHAM Guidance Coordinator JoAnne Prague Doyle.
The next meeting of the RHAM Parent Group is scheduled for Oct.23 at 7:00 p.m., in the RHAM High School library. Check the website for details.