Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, the state's fourth largest school district, is debating whether its five high schools should still report class rank — from first place to last.

The proposal before the school board suggests eliminating class rank reporting, which puts students in order according to grade-point average (GPA), with the 2016-17 freshmen and phasing it out completely by 2019-20. It would be replaced by the Latin designations summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude, based either on a student's percentile rank or GPA.

Principals in the district are just starting to gather input on the change — and they're expecting feedback from students and parents.

The discussion comes at a time when school districts across the country have stopped publicizing class rank, saying it's not a meaningful number and could harm a student's college chances if it's not high enough. Less than half of U.S. high schools track and report rank, according to the National Association of College Admissions Counselors.

At least a dozen metro-area public high schools, like Edina, Minnetonka, Hopkins, Bloomington and West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan no longer report rank. Some private high schools, like Blake and Cretin-Derham Hall, also have stopped. Farmington High School is in the process of phasing it out.

John Wollersheim, principal at Rosemount High School, said about 90 percent of the district's seniors will attend some sort of postsecondary school. Each student deserves to be judged for admission on their own merits, he said.

"It's best for those schools to look holistically at those students," he said. "We don't think class rank is a good statistic."

Reporting class rank only makes a small number of students look exemplary, he said, and doesn't take into account many other factors in a student's academic career, like the size of a graduating class or what courses a student took.

Class rank often is reported on a student's transcript as part of a college application, along with GPA and SAT or ACT scores. A Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan student's ranking still would be available if required by a college or scholarship application.

Controversy to come?

Getting rid of the class rank statistic is often controversial, as some high-achieving students and their parents believe having a top class rank is worthy of celebration.

In Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan high schools, the top 10 students in a graduating class are given special recognition at the end of the year. Under the district's proposal, those students would be honored with the Latin designations.

That would allow more students — between a hundred and two hundred students at each school — to be recognized, said Mark Parr, director of secondary education.

Some students think that if they're at the top, it will help them get into a more prestigious college.

Parr said he researched Minnesota colleges, and there are six or seven in the state that require class rank. In those cases, it would be available, he said.

Military academies, like the Naval Academy or the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, still require rank. Some scholarships also want to see it, Parr said.

But including class rank on a transcript can hurt students, said Parr. For example, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities require students to be in the top half of their class, but only if class rank is reported.

Both Wollersheim and Parr anticipate possible resistance to eliminating class rank. Over the coming weeks, students, staff and parents will be surveyed to get their opinion.

"I would guess some of them would miss the top 10," Wollersheim said. "If [students and parents] go crazy, I don't know what the board will do."

Erin Adler • 952-746-3283