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District 833 to stop reporting class rank to students, colleges

You hear it time and time again from high school valedictorians or salutatorians: they set the goal of being No. 1.

Well, starting next year students will have to set different goals since District 833 has decided not to report class rank any longer.

"We want students to focus on getting the best grades possible," said Kris Moe, a counselor from Park High School. "We want them to focus on their class choices, not on how the student is doing next to them."

In addition to not reporting class rank at school, class rank will not be reported to colleges, scholarships or parents.

An informational meeting on the topic was held May 22 at Woodbury High School.

Why not report?

The decision to not report class rank was made by the district's secondary principals based on the fact that some students are negatively impacted when class rank is reported, East Ridge High School principal Aaron Harper said.

Often, colleges won't consider students who are not in the top 10 percent, WHS counselor Mary Holden said.

"If it's there, they can use it as a discriminatory factor," she said.

The average grade of students within District 833 is a B-plus, which causes those students to have a lower ranking, Holden said.

"There's a very minute difference between the No. 1 student and the last student in the top 10 percent," Holden said. "A student with a 3.9 GPA is not in the top 10 percent."

Additionally, Holden said, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to compare students to each other because other factors need to be considered, such as rigor, advanced classes and class size.

"Back in the day you used to be able to compare students to each other because they had the same classes and the same teachers," she said. "You could compare apples to apples, but you can't do that now."

Moe said the decision not to report class rank was also influenced by the fact that fewer and fewer colleges actually consider it.

According to statistics, Moe said, in 1993 a total of 43 percent of colleges said class rank was important; in 2011, that dropped to 19 percent.

A parent at last week's meeting, who works as an admissions counselor, agreed with that sentiment.

"The concept of class rank is outdated," she said.

Melissa Munoz, a counselor for East Ridge, said the majority of colleges have said there are no issues with class rank not being reported.

However, if a college, or scholarship, should require class rank, and not reporting it would negatively impact a student, the schools would gladly report it to colleges, Holden said.

District 833 will not be the first to eliminate the reporting of class rank.

Many Minnesota high schools have stopped reporting class rank, including Hill Murray, Stillwater Area, Mahtomedi, Edina and Bloomington Kennedy.

With the absence of class ranking, colleges will evaluate students on all other areas of their high school careers - rigor, grades in college preparatory courses, standardized tests, types of courses and overall GPA.

"They have to dig deeper to find out about your child," Moe said.

"They look at all the pieces," WHS counselor Jeri Olsen said. "No one piece weighs any heavier than any other piece."

Even without class rank, though, District 833 high schools will still try to find ways to recognize student achievement, Munoz said.

The schools are considering recognizing students for "honors," "high honors" and "highest honors" based on GPA.

As part of the removal of reporting class rank, valedictorians and salutatorians will no longer be named either, Munoz said.

"We feel that will keep that competition going and students having that unnecessary pressure," she said.

A handful of parents spoke during last week's meeting criticizing the decision to not report class rank.

Several parents expressed frustration, arguing it takes out the competition side of high school, which drives a lot of students to perform better.

"They'll be competing against themselves," Munoz said, "Rather than trying to climb to No. 1."

Several parents also expressed skepticism that highly selective colleges won't require class rank.

One parent expressed frustration that the new system is going into effect next year for all students, rather than with next year's freshmen.

The change will not require approval from District 833 School Board, according to district spokeswoman Barb Brown.

"The crux of why we're here is that we believe our system is broken," Harper said. "We are negatively impacting students."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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