Thursday, April 25, 2002

Cape parent opposes class rank

Published in the Current

Tim Youmans, a parent of a student at Cape Elizabeth High School, wants to abolish the school’s practice of effectively listing class rank on transcripts sent with college applications, and the School Board agrees that it should be discussed.

A group will be formed at the beginning of the next academic year to explore the issue, including possibly surveying colleges to which Cape students tend to apply.

Youmans said reporting class rank can hurt some students’ chances of getting into the college of their choice, but leaving it off will not hurt the chances of top students.

Four years ago, the district discussed the issue and ended up at a point where specific class rank was not indicated on transcripts, but a student’s grade point average (GPA) was reported, along with the GPA range of the class as a whole.

From that information, Youmans argued before the board at its April 23 workshop meeting, a brief look can tell college admissions officers roughly what an applicant’s class rank is, and certainly whether a student is in the top 10 or 20 percent of the class.

In the discussions four years ago, Youmans said, much was made of a 1993 National Association of Secondary School Principals study, in which, Youmans said, the words support reporting of class rank, but the numbers do not.

“Colleges and high schools really do agree that class rank isn’t that important in college admissions,” Youmans said.

Youmans said he has discussed the issue with high school Principal Jeff Shedd, school district Superintendent Tom Forcella and high school guidance counselor, Sharon Merrill. But in those discussions, he said, he saw a need for further discussion.

Shedd said he has asked for comment from parents. He said that while he was not at the high school in 1998 when the topic was last discussed, he understood that the decision at that time was “not only based on the survey but also the experience and feelings of students, parents and teachers.”

Shedd said one concern Merrill—who was not present at the meeting— has voiced to him is that if class rank is eliminated, colleges will place additional emphasis on other statistics, including standardized test results.

That would help some kids and hurt others, Shedd said.

“The elimination of class rank would not only benefit the bottom 80 percent, but—contrary to my assumption—it would have no effect on our top kids,” Youmans said.

“Our kids are competing with kids from other schools to get into college,” Youmans said. “They’re not competing with each other to get into college.”

Forcella said some colleges use class rank as a means by which to make a first cut, summarily eliminating students below a certain rank in their classes. He said leaving class rank off could force schools to actually look at a student’s application.

Board member Kevin Sweeney reminded the board that the district’s mission statement does not talk about admission to college, but instead talks about creating good citizens. He said he is in favor of “anything that gives kids the maximum number of options on graduation day. ”