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The Evanston Township High School District 202 Board voted 6-1 Monday night to eliminate class ranking at the school and by a 5-2 vote to implement that decision immediately with the Class of 2014.

A dissenting vote on each motion was cast by Scott Rochelle, who advocated maintaining the ranking for the top 10 percent of the class, which Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said had been considered by the administration, but rejected due to the mixed signals it would send to colleges.

It affects the credibility of the school, the superintendent said, when college admissions officers note that some students say the class is ranked, while others say it is not.

“Either you rank or you don’t rank,” he declared.

Rochelle protested that the elimination of this level of competition would be harmful to students who are entering a world where competition is important.

“We’re stripping away some tools they’re going to need to compete as adults,” he said.

Member Mark Metz suggested a compromise position whereby the school would designate any person earning a grade point average above a stated amount to have graduated with distinction.

On the issue of when to make the elimination of class rank effective, Board President Gretchen Livingston, without comment, cast the other dissenting vote along with Rochelle’s.

The original recommendation of the administration was that the move take effect with the Class of 2015, but Baum suggested that if the research indicated that class ranking was harmful to some students in their college quest , then it should not be delayed.

Witherspoon said that since Baum had raised the issue when the administration proposed the move at the June 10 meeting, they reviewed their research and could find no reason to oppose immediate implementation.

The student representative on the board, Russell Fillmore-Brady, asked if it were possible for seniors to change their course selections for next year, in that some had indicated they made those decisions as a strategy for affecting their class rank.

Witherspoon said it is too late to make changes, as the staffing is already in place for the next school year.  “If we had to open up any other sections,” he said, “it would cost the school district money.”

Earlier story:

End class ranking at ETHS now or later?
 

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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14 Comments

  1. Disturbing trend by D202 Board

    All students are not equal in their academic accomplishments.  People are ranked throughout their lives, so what does not ranking students accomplish? The rational that this may damage some students' ability to get into college does not make sense.  Students have the grades and the accomplishments and the activities that they have and there are thousands of colleges including many right here in Illinois.

    Alternatively, it strips away a goal and a motivation for the highest performing students.  Al alternitive would be designations such as "top 5%", "top 10%", "top 20%", "top 50%" of their class.  But to do away with ranking altogether is a head in the sand perspective and ignores the real world that awaits our students.  

    This watering down of focus on achievement is another poor decision that is consistent with the board's decision to eliminate Freshman honors classes.  Yes, all students deserve the best education that we can provide, but not all students achieve at the same rate or accomplish the same amount in their high school careers.  A ranking may very well help our best achieving students get into the colleges of their dreams.  Did the board consisder that?

    1. Here’s the thing…

      You're right-all students are not equal.  But when you have a ranking system where #20 can be  .1 away from #100, it's pretty close to equal.

      ETHS had close to 700 students in their 2013 class.  Evanston also has a very large percentage of high performing students. (It seems we've been proven to be pretty brainy.)

      Ranking is so watered down due to the size of the school and the brightness of the kids that go there that it hurts more than it harms. A B average student will likely be ranked in the lower 1/2 of the class. Scholarship opportunities are lost simply because a student's GPA was off by .002 and they missed the cut for top 10% (they really shouldve taken Honors Ceramics instead of one of those highly challenging AP science or math classes that really interested them). 

      Colleges get 1000s of applications, ranking is one way for them to quickly pass on applicants.  New Trier found that they had more students accepted into top schools when they did away with ranking. Admissions offices were forced to not take any shortcuts and  look at the applicant with a more holistic approach.

      1. Better for the individual! Better for the world!

        The class rank becomes such a focus by some students, they do  not take even an honors class that interests them because of the lack of GPA bump.

        • Regular classes – regular GPA
        • Honors classes – GPA bumped up
        • AP classes – Bigger GPA bump

        The AP centered GPA boost makes even honors classes a class rank depressor for juniors and seniors.

        High school has many types of competition. The competition required to be of the highest rank was not healthy when it caused students (parents) to put courses appropriate to their development as individuals and good citizens on the back burner.

        The world might be a better place if students felt free to take the ceramics, child care, or astronomy class instead of packing in AP courses for the GPA.

  2. If ranking is good, why wait?

    Mr. Clarke,

    If class rank is truly a motivator of students, then why don't we give it to them before the end of their junior year? Why not rank them after their first semester freshman year? If competition between students is a healthy motivator, and is indeed part of what they must learn to deal with all their lives, why wait? 

    I do not think that this will negatively impact the highest achieving students – their transcripts will demonstrate their achievements sufficiently without needless comparison with their peers.

  3. Thank you 202 Board

    Thanks 202 Board for removing class rank, and removing it for the class of 2014.

    We live in a time and a place where it takes a 4.0 GPA or close to it to crack the top 20 percent of an ETHS class. THAT'S how many good students we have in this town. Put another way, you'd rather be top 50% at ETHS than top 10% at a lot of other places.

    This move forces colleges and universities to actually look at our students' transcripts and grades, our ETHS course offerings and the quality of the school, rather than taking the easy way out and using class rank to make the cut. 

    I have no doubt ETHS students will continue to stack up excellent high school portfolios. If anything, this move should free more students to pursue excellence, and take harder classes without risking their class rank position.

    1. You can’t ‘force’ a university to do anything

      Sorry to say, no way a university is going to take the time to go through a process of looking through ETHS course offerings and the quality of the school. They don't care.

      This is just further degradation of a key tool kids need to make it in this world…..competition.  It is not all sunshine and roses out there.  The world can and will be a mean and unforgiving place.  The politically correct stand of "everybody is a winner…let’s all be happy…every kid gets a trophy just for trying", does not serve young adults well. Too much protection and coddling.

  4. Could we learn from Texas?

    As I understand the argument,  U. Texas at Austin felt that accepting  the top percent  [now eight] of high school students guards them from complaints and lawsuits over affirmative action for diversity.

    If Illinois universities ever have to defend their policies and admit the top X% of high school graduates, could ETHS and other high schools face problems with getting their students into the best public colleges ?

    But today could dropping ranking hurt ETHS grads?  Supposedly universites do due-diligence in reviewing each student's record, but be realistic.  There are many cases that come to mind but what about UIUC which reportedly limits the number of students from a given high school like ETHS or Highland Park. 

    Would you want to be a parent whose child 'would have' been in the top percent but formal grades were the same as a number of other students but anyone in that school/class knew he would be in the top percent if ranked—and so not get into UIUC?

  5. Make it retroactive

    Think beyond college to see an even more serious situation. Although ridiculous, many job applications still ask for high school class rankings. Companies surely don't consider the differences in high schools. It's just another simple but meaningless cut point for them.

    Should also find a way to make this retroactive in fairness to past graduates who still have to deal with this situation. Away with all class rankings! GPA is more than enough.

  6. Bravo for eliminating class

    Bravo for eliminating class rankings. The Board made the right decision.  Very happy that it was implemented for the class of 2014.

  7. Not bravo to the high school!

    NOT Bravo to the High School!!  I am sure there are students in the top 10% & up who wanted their class rank.  If a grade's size is 700 – that's only 70 students who want their class rank compared to 630 who do not.  Naturally, majority ruled.

  8. More high school testing

    With grade inflation and students being able to take courses that are not or even close to being college prep., and doing away with class ranking—given the drawbacks from these—colleges will have to rely more on standardized tests such as ACT and SAT—for the academic side, all they can use to compare unless they make  a major effort to interview, get recommedatiions [even for graduate school and business these are next to worthless since everyone knows someone 'respected' and fear of lawsuits if they say something bad.

    This may be dated, but some colleges used to require/suggest that potential students meet with an alumni who will get back to the college.  There has recently been some push-back on this esp. with foreign students and in particular if the alumni is also from that country—i.e. was the conversation in English so skills for communicatiion could be demonstrated [esp. true for MBA and graduate school [where some teaching will be required]. For ETHS this should not be a problem given the range of colleges attended by alumni—but do they want to do this or have the evaluation skill [and willing to give a bad report on a friend's child?] .

    At one time the University of Chicago took interviews and evaluation of students to the point where even students who had not graduated from high school yet [i.e. 15-17], or even had to drop out but demonstrated skills/knowlege that seemed to show they would succeed. However this was also a school that banned football for years because college was for studies not athletics—-even recently a scholarship [all academic skiils as a given] could be given for the trampoline—but no one getting any athletic scholarship had to ever participate in college—it was just a 'diversity.'   I doubt you will find many schools [if UofC even does anymore] that so carefully evaluate students. More probably judge on contributions to the school as in "Legally Blond."

  9. ETHS Board

    The ETHS school board, especially johnathan Baum seem to be doing whatever they can to hurt district 202. One exception is Gretchin Livingston. How stupid can you be to give the class of 2014 their class ranks, let them believe they will recieve them at the end of second semester, and then withhold them. On top of that, class rank factors in to course selection which has already taken place. While they believe class rank may be a hurtful practice it was wrong to take it away from class of 2014 and I'm glad at least a few members of the school board saw this. First freshman humanites, then this. I'm worried about those that we have elected to represent the interests of the students at ETHS. I still believe the whole notion of getting rid of class rank is brought on by parents who are unwilling to accept that they have spoiled their children and these children won't all be as succesful as their parents. At some point you have to compete and you don't have mommy and daddy to complain about how "the system" is the problem rather than the student. 

    1. Don’t mix apples and oranges

      Wait, you are complaining about Baum and praising Livingston? Gretchen Livingston has consistently voted to elminate honors sections and to move towards more mixed level classes. Johnathan Baum has fought to keep honors sections. He, like many parents of high achieving students, wanted to eliminate class rank because it hurts all kids, even those in the top 10% of GPA. 

      ETHS' own statistics show that 20% of students score in the 95th percentile or above on nationally normed tests like the EXPLORE test. So ranking them actually hurts kids who are still in the top 5% of the country but don't rank in the top 10% of ETHS based on course selection and GPA. 

      Don't mix apples and oranges. Dropping class rank is not like eliminating honors classes. ETHS should reinstate honors classes but stop giving kids an extra bump in their GPA when they're in them. That would level the playing field more than mixed-level classes.

  10. New additional GPA criteria needed?

    To resolve the problem with high GPA scores, perhaps each grade should also be accompied with a ranking, e.g. 1 for a shop course; 2 for drama, gender studies, non-traditional music; 3 for music survey/theory; 4 for history [US, World], languages [classic, those used in academiic like French, German, Russian], standard high school physics/chemistry/biology; 5 for calculus and advanced mathematics, college prep phsics/chemistry.

    To deal with grade inflation [this has been proposed before], the mean and standard deviation of grades for the class.

    So for US History theee would be a Grade of B [3.2],a Rank for course level [3]; Mean [2.1] and Standard Deviation [0.5].

    AP grades would be reported separatly to make GPA more comparable but this is probably not a significant problem.

    Transcripts would also include number/percent of students attending two year and four year [separately] the prior year, average GPA for the school and Standard Deviation.

    This information would probably be of even more value to colleges and some employers

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