Class Ranking: Will its removal help your admissions into the Big Ten?

The truth behind the District’s No-Rank Policy

It’s late October and to seniors in the Class of 2010 that means only one thing: college apps.  With deadlines looming for CSUs, Private school Early Decision, as well as UCs, turning in teacher recommendations, application essays, and transcripts are a must.  Most seniors pay attention to only three pieces of information on their transcript: their GPA, their class rank, and their service learning record.

Lately schools in the Fremont Unified School District have been faced with a choice of whether to remove class rank from the student’s transcript or whether to let it remain.  Currently, class rank is unweighted in all FUSD high schools and many students and parents alike feel that it is not an accurate representation of an AP or honor student’s high school performance.

Several weeks ago a team of Mission San Jose parents went to the school district with a plan to cancel class ranking completely.   The district acquiesced agreeing that un-weighted class rankings were unrepresentative of the students’ true academic achievements.

Un-weighted class rankings weighs Bs in AP courses and regular courses as the same.  Students who take mostly regular courses and receive As have a higher rank than those who take challenging AP or honors courses and receive a mixture of As and Bs.

Mission, the district’s top-scoring school (with Irvington High a close second), has around 50 students with a 4.0 un-weighted GPA.  Getting one B+ instead of an A- often means the difference between being ranked #1 and being ranked #51.  Many students who have taken difficult AP classes such as Calculus BC or Chemistry find their ranking in the 100s upon receiving two Bs.  Mission parents, students, and teachers, believed it put their students at a disadvantage when applying to colleges.

One MSJ parent who wishes to remain anonymous said, “Removing class rank provides students with the freedom of being judged for their grades and not for how competitive their school is or how their peers did compared to them.”

However, this trend for removing class rank is not being followed only by MSJ. American parents were soon to follow MSJ’s example. In one survey, over 85% of American parents said they wanted class ranking off their children’s transcripts. American is currently ranked 3rd (using API scores) in FUSD, behind Irvington.  American parents, however, have taken several aggressive initiatives to help improve their school.  This is just one of them.

“We want to help our students as much as possible,” said one American teacher who wished to remain anonymous. “As teachers, we should be trying to get our kids into the best possible colleges.  Colleges that they deserve to get into.”
“It is not even used as a major criteria for college admissions.  If left on transcripts, it puts students with Bs or Cs, at a disadvantage when applying to top schools.  Since it’s unweighted ranking it is not even a true estimation.

Looking beyond our district, schools such as Amador and Foothill also have no class rank. Other schools in FUSD are now strongly considering the possibility.

FUSD Secondary School representative Kathy Ashford confirms, “Many colleges such as Ivy Leagues do not really need class rank.  If there is a special situation involving a university that necessitates class ranking, the student will be able to include their rank in such an application.”

“This should fall to the students and parents, as a whole, in each school,” said an anonymous FUSD employee.

Of course, says Ms. Obata, colleges will look at class rank if it is there.  Class rank makes the jobs for colleges easier, she argues. It allows them to quantify students into neat little boxes while not looking at a student’s true achievements.

One former Irvington and MSJ parent said, “My daughter had around a 3.66 unweighted GPA and was ranked in the hundreds in MSJ.”

As it turns out even in Irvington she would have been ranked an average of 85.  An average ranking that as it turns out is not good enough to get into the private and public colleges that she wished.

The un-weighted GPA rank for students in Irvington who have a 3.7 is approximately 65.    Statistically speaking, the chance for such a student to get into an Ivy League is pretty low.  Ivy Leagues like to claim that 90%+ of their class is in the top 10%.  The top 10% equals the top 43 students here in Irvington.

American High parent Hiu Ng said, “The student’s chances are greatly increased if only their GPA is shown.”

Many Irvington High upperclassmen agree.  From a student’s perspective, at least, a 3.8 un-weighted GPA looks better than a rank of, a 3.94 GPA looks better than a rank of 12.

Irvington High School’s principal Pete Murchison said, “Irvington students enjoy class rank.  It allows them to see how they compare to other students.  MSJ has a special situation…”

Is un-weighted class rank, which is viewed by many to hurt the hundreds students who take an AP or honors course truly accurate and beneficial to students – even from a competitive point of view? 
“I feel that class rank gives unnecessary stress to students and really hurts our chances to go to a good college,” said Senior vice-president Karishma Patel.

One parent of an MSJ valedictorians said, “Even though my son was ranked #1, I support the removal of class rank. Students can always have their counselor or principal note that they were  one of the top-GPA students in their recommendation letters and secondary school forms for college admissions.”

Parents should be quick to note that this is Un-weighted Class Rank.  Even if your child is usually a non-AP student, chances are that he will take at least one AP course during his high school -career. With the current ranking system, getting a B or C in that class would be equivalent to getting a B or C in the easiest of campus courses. For parents of students enrolled in many honors and AP courses, it can be noted that a B- in the hardest honors pre-calculus class available is equal (in current class rank system) to a B- in Algebra I.

The decision of class rank ultimately falls to the students. Survey results passed out during advisory to Irvington students on Tuesday October 20th, 2009, passed out to approximately 650 students selected by a stratified random sample of advisory groups were as follows:

358 students wished for class rank to be eliminated from the transcript

129 students wished for class rank to still be included in the transcript

158 students marked that they had no opinion or did not know enough information to care.  Most (over 70%) were Freshman.

Out of the opinionated students, 74% were in favor of removal of class rank – a clear majority.
Irvington students, it seems, do not want un-weighted class rank as a part of their transcript.  Students clearly have strong feelings on the subject.  Will students at America’s Favorite School make it known to their teachers?

So you decide: Does un-weighted class rank give a misguided picture of a student to college admissions? Or is it beneficial to students? Is it necessary to keep on our transcript?

Want to weigh in your opinion? Want to read more on class rank?
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