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District 207 Consider 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 Dr. 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.

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