The only issue the Evanston Township High School District 202 School Board has with an administration proposal to end the practice of ranking students by grades is whether to do it now or wait for the Class of 2015.

Since September of last year, the ETHS Grading Committee has been exploring the merits of eliminating individual class rank of students.

Actually, it’s rather late to the party, as nearby schools such as New Trier, Glenbrook, Niles, Maine, Highland Park, as well as Oak Park River Forest, have already discontinued the practice.

Beth Arey, ETHS College and Career Coordinator, made the case at the board meeting Monday night, noting that class rank has diminished as a factor in college admissions.

The four primary factors in the admission process, she said, are grades in college prep courses, strength of curriculum, admissions test scores, and grades in courses.

At Northwestern University, she said, 20,376 of the 32,772 freshmen applicants this year had no class rank. Of those who were admitted and decided to attend NU, seven out of 10 did not report rank.

Rather than help students gain admission to selective universities, class rank more often hinders students, especially those who fall in the middle or near the bottom of the class.

She said it was not uncommon for students to take certain courses for the wrong reasons in order to improve their class ranking. What’s more important, she added, was for students to strive to make the best grades possible, which is something over which they have some control.

The administration’s proposal was to eliminate class rank at ETHS “effective for the Class of 2015.”

Board member Jonathan Baum said that “if we are doing a great disservice to our students by continuing class rank, then we should not continue the disservice to another class.”

When the proposal comes up for a vote at the next board meeting, he said, he will propose an amendment to make it effective with the Class of 2014.

The response from Superintendent Eric Witherspoon was that “we’re very open to what the board wants to do.”

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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  1. Now

    Now. It's LONG overdue

    While we're at it, let's also rid ourselves of awarding more credit (i.e., weighting the grade) for courses as well. Without class rank, there's no need for it. Colleges look at the course name and curricular description, and the student's actual grade in it. In the case of AP, the student's score on the test is the only validation a college will consider in awarding college course credit. (In fact, a student need not even take course to take the AP test and earn such credit.)

    Bravo, ETHS leadership and school board.

  2. Is it the non-achievers want to end ranking?

    I was astonished to read that ETHS, once a real temple of learning, is now fast becoming a deep hole where kids can go pass time and "feel good" about their achievements and/or lack of same.  I lived in Evanston for many years, although I was a student of parochial education (12 years).  In looking at our national problem of poor education, one need not dilute the process more and more, but rather institute curriculae for those whose ambitions do not require traditional college education.  For example:  What of those who wish to beome chefs and attend one of the well-regarded culinary institutes? Great basic to gourmet cooking classes including kitchen set up, restaurant hygiene, studies of food, an in-school "garden," etc.  What if a student aspires to carpentry?  Okay, remember woodshop?  Well, lets' bring THAT up a notch or two. Ditto, automotive  repair,etc.  Sewing? Perhaps we want to look at sewing to fashion design or a related field.  A lot of young people would love to have this opportunity to excel.  Excelling is not reserved for the (text)bookish, upper 1-10% of scholastic achievement.  When a student applies to attend a top school such as Harvard, Yale, NU, USC, and others — how do they convey their ranking?  Or is it simply…Well, they gave me this diploma, but I have trouble reading it.  Instead of giving the kids a barre to reach and surpass, the school officials are opting to remove the barre.  How sad for ETHS.  Are they also saying that they have already judged the kids as uneducable to any degree of meaning?  That is beyond sad–it's pathetic.  I see Evanston over all is pretty soon going to look a lot like downtown Detroit.  

    1. Downtown Detroit?

      "I see Evanston over all is pretty soon going to look a lot like downtown Detroit."


      Whenever people bring "Detroit" into a discussion on urban policy or education  – unless the discussion is about the problems deindustrialization or having a non-diversified economic base-  we know what they are really talking about.


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