Starting with the class of 2019, fewer students in Frisco ISD will know their class rank. The district’s board of trustees voted on a change Monday night that will only allow the district to rank students in the top 10 percent of their class. Students outside the top 10 percent would not know their exact position in relation to the peers in their grade.
Frisco ISD is the latest district to consider changes to address concerns students are selecting courses based only on improving GPA for rank and that rankings breed a culture of over-competitiveness and anxiety.
“What we were finding in Frisco ISD is students were dropping out of CTE (Career and Technical Education) pathways to really investigate careers because it negatively impacted their GPA,” said Director of Guidance and Counseling Stephanie Cook. “The other piece is they really weren’t developing themselves as leaders because they weren’t staying in things like athletics or fine arts because again that was another negative hit on their GPA.”
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Starting with the class of 2019, the district will only rank students in the top 10% of their class, as required by state law. Students outside the top 10% percent would fall into more general categories: top 25%, 50% and 75%. The district will publish the lowest GPA in each group to give students context of how close they are to the various categories.
Other changes would be phased in later, including allowing students to designate one course to drop each year for the GPA for rank calculation. That course must be in athletics or fine arts.
“As much as ranking is important to me, there’s a lot of other things I wanted to do,” said Heritage High School graduated senior Rica Llagas.
Llagas, an aspiring attorney, joined competitive clubs and participated in mock trial. She points out those accomplishments can’t be summed up by class rank. But she says she found herself worrying about rank early in her high school career.
“I was definitely feeling the pressure. I kind of viewed my classmates as competition more than collaborators sometimes,” said Llagas. “It was still a pretty big stress factor in my junior and senior years, but I tried to lesson its importance on me because I realized it had really adverse effects on my mental health.”
Llagas served on an advisory council to the superintendent, as the district studied changes to the class ranking system. Llagas says the change is necessary.
“It added a certain level of toxicity among students. It stopped becoming about knowing your place and trying to better yourself, it became a lot about targeting specific people and thinking what strategies can I use to make sure I beat their rank,” said Llagas.
“We’re finding that to develop a well-rounded college applicant, they needed to investigate career options, they needed to exercise leadership and show continuation in something for four years,” said Cook. “That’s what colleges look at are high yield students, students that will graduate in four or five years.”
Cook says without class ranks, colleges are forced to take a holistic view of a student.
“At the end of the day, you want them to get into good college, have a good career, have a successful life,” said Cook. “Whether or not they were number 85 or 142, when they don’t wear that number on them and they still get into the same school, what we do is we take care of the kid.”
The Board of Trustees in Plano has also heard recommendations about making changes to rankings. Plano’s school board is voting on the issue Tuesday.