FISD proposes changes to current class rank system

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FHS-LogoDuring the Friendswood ISD Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, May 13, FISD administrators proposed eliminating class rank, after the top 10 percent. The proposal comes as a direct result of FISD’s 2019-2024 Strategic Plan which calls for the year one specific result: Establish a system that eliminates class rank and cultivates each student’s unique path. The strategic plan and its year one actions were created by a wide range of stakeholders including students, parents, community members, administrators and teachers.

In February, FISD established a Class Rank Research Committee which was comprised of 24 members including students, parents, teachers, counselors and administrators. The committee was charged with the responsibility of collecting and reviewing literature, research, current practices/policies, other districts’ practices/policies, state policy and college admission practices. As the committee conducted its research over a three-month-long period, it found substantial evidence to support the elimination of class rank outside of the top 10 percent.

Some of the group’s findings include reports from the National Association for College Admissions Counseling stating more than half of all high schools no longer report student rankings because of the following reasons: class rank may not accurately reflect academic achievement, it discourages students from taking non-weighted classes in which they are interested, it does not have a standardized methodology across districts, and it allows colleges to label students without looking at their full academic-achievement record.

According to reports taken from Westlake High School in Eanes ISD, the school saw a 38 percent increase in acceptances to the University of Texas and a 49 percent increase to Texas A&M after eliminating class rank beyond the top 10 percent. Other schools have also seen an increase in the amount of scholarship money students receive after the elimination of class rank. The committee noted none of the school districts which have approved eliminating class rank outside of the top 10 percent have switched back to ranking because of its effectiveness with their students’ success.

FISD conducted a survey to gauge community support for the initiative. Out of 478 people who participated in the survey, more than 90 percent are in favor of eliminating class rank beyond the top 10 percent.

“I believe class rank limits our students in many ways,” Nicole Rhodes, FISD parent, said. “Our students are all very talented academically and deserve for colleges to review their entire transcript, not just a number. When those students with all A’s and B’s are considered the ‘bottom half’ of the class, you know something has to be done to change the system.”

She continued. “Kids are stressing themselves out and overloading their schedules by taking classes they are not really interested in just to play the class rank game,” Rhodes said. “They should get the opportunity to grow throughout high school and find themselves without the fear of failure.”

Diane Myers, assistant superintendent of secondary curriculum and instruction, played a vital role in the research and decision-making process.

“From the research gathered by the Class Rank Research Committee, we found the reporting of class rank to colleges and universities limits the majority of students in a high-performing school district like Friendswood,” Myers said, “An example is the student in the 48th percentile of a given class carrying a 3.64 grade point average (GPA) on a 4-point scale. This student has maintained strong grades by performing strongly in class, however, is being represented in the 48th percent by class rank.”

Due to this reasoning, the committee said they believe ranking FISD students, outside of the top 10 percent, results in greater harm than benefit to students at all levels of achievement. The committee recommended the continuation of calculating a 4-point, 8-point and 100-point GPA for all students, internally determining the top 10 percent using the 8-point scale to report the top 10 percent to colleges and universities (per State law) and providing each student in the top 10 percent with a certificate of class rank containing the student’s numerical rank out of the specific total class size for college applications.

Additionally, the committee recommended communicating the lowest GPA of the top 10 percent per grade level to the entire class at the end of every school year in order to give those who are outside of the top 10 percent context in which to judge how close they may be to the top 10 percent. Notifications regarding top 10 percent status will be given at the end of the students’ freshman year, the end of the fall and spring semesters of their sophomore and junior years, the end of the fall semester of their senior year and the end of the third nine-weeks of their senior year. Final top 10 percent will be determined at the fourth nine-weeks of the students’ senior year.

“I am thrilled FISD is considering eliminating class rank,” Rhode said. “Our kids will be so much better off with a system that allows them to shine in their own way to colleges who will get to see their entire story. The goal is for students to find their unique path and for our school district to help them achieve success through their individual strengths. I am proud to be a supporter of this recommendation.”

The FISD Board of Trustees will be voting on the proposal at the next Board meeting on Monday, June 10.