School Districts Consider Limiting Class Rankings

When high school seniors across North Texas graduate this week, chances are they will know their class rank - their exact position in relation to peers in their grade. But two of the biggest districts, Frisco and Plano ISD, are the latest to consider changes to address concerns that rankings have become far too competitive.

"I have to deal with kids asking me for my rank constantly," Stafford Johnson, a junior at Frisco's Liberty High School, said. "It became almost a joke, especially my freshman year where kids would just come up to me and say: 'Rank?'"

Johnson is in the Honor Society, plays football and does theater. He said his parents encourage him to have a well-rounded high school experience, but he worried other students are more focused on picking classes that can improve their GPA for rank.

"They don't have time for electives anymore so they won't take an engineering class if they want to go into engineering," Johnson said. "Instead, they'll take some other AP course in order to boost their rank and their GPA."

It is a concern expressed to the Frisco ISD Board of Trustees. Last month, Johnson weighed in on the GPA for rank system, and encouraged trustees to consider alternatives.

Trustees are expected to vote on new recommendations that would publish rank through the top 10 percent of students, starting with the class of 2019. Students outside the top 10 percent would fall into more general categories: top 25 percent, 50 percent and 75 percent. Other changes would be phased in later, including allowing students to designate one course to drop each year to help their GPA for rank calculation. The course they choose must be in athletics or fine arts.

The Board of Trustees in Plano ISD has also heard recommendations about making changes to class rankings.

Districts are considering adjustments over concerns students are selecting courses based only on improving GPA for rank and that rankings breed a culture of over-competitiveness and anxiety.

David Dillard, President of KD College Prep, said he supports a fresh approach that places less emphasis on class rank.

"It doesn't give the full picture and so if they can improve it to take away a student making moves to play the game, it's a good thing," Dillard said. "Colleges are looking at the holistic picture."

But some students said class rank kept them on the right track.

Kristen Yoder, a senior at Plano Senior High School, said she was determined to graduate in the top 7 percent of her class to gain automatic admission to her dream school: The University of Texas at Austin.

"I do think that can give you an edge and can give you that little extra push when it's late, or you're tired, or you don't want to study," Yoder said. "It can give you a little extra oomph to keep going."

Districts said they will still rank the top ten percent of students, as required by state law. With the exception of The University of Texas at Austin, public colleges and universities in Texas offer automatic acceptance to students in the top 10 percent of their graduating class.

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