Farmington finds a compromise on printing class rank on transcripts

  • Article by: ERIN ADLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 1, 2014 - 2:23 PM

After six months of discussion, Farmington High School may try to have it both ways on the thorny question of class rank — not putting it on everyone’s transcript, but also not doing away with it entirely. Instead, each senior would decide whether they want their class rank included on transcripts.

The district’s class rank committee will present a proposal April 14 to the school board recommending the “hybrid” solution.

The school district got some pushback from parents and students after announcing last August that it would eliminate class rankings. Many schools nationally are eliminating class rank because it can be misleading — a student can be ranked a seemingly unimpressive 50th in the class but be just a fraction of a point away from the top of the pile, for instance.

Defenders of class rank, however, say many colleges still emphasize it and fear that students could miss out if their transcripts don’t include it.

The new plan “enables us to customize the decision,” said Principal Ben Kusch, noting that the district’s strategic plan emphasizes personalized learning and this is an extension of that.

Suzanne Wharton, a parent on the committee, said she sees the decision as bene­ficial for all students, regardless of academic standing.

“I just don’t see how it could possibly be negative, because everyone gets to do exactly what they want with it,” she said.

Other districts, including Eastern Carver County and Mounds View, also use the hybrid approach.

‘A limiting factor’

Class rank, or where a student’s GPA falls in relation to other students in their class, provides context for a student’s GPA. Increasingly, however, schools are eliminating the reporting of rank because it doesn’t always give an accurate picture of how a student is doing academically. About half of high schools nationally still report rank, Kusch said.

“What we’ve learned is for a portion of our student body, that can be a limiting factor,” he said.

A student with a midrange GPA might not even be in the top half of their class, which could keep them from getting into some schools.

Wharton said she initially joined the committee, composed of parents, two counselors and Kusch, because the decision to eliminate rank was “disheartening” for her daughter, a junior.

She came in wanting to preserve it, she said. “Our family, per se, doesn’t put a huge emphasis on [class rank], but it’s been a motivator for my daughter,” she said.

On visits to private and public colleges in several states, her daughter was told rank was important by some admissions officers.

But she now sees the issue as more complicated, she said.

Reporting rank can be helpful for students, and not just high performers, she said. At some less-selective colleges, meeting a few basic requirements will automatically allow a student to be admitted, one of which is often having a rank in a certain range.

Without providing that information, the student has fewer ways to gain admittance and may have to rely more on SAT or ACT scores, she said.

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