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FHS will reexamine decision to eliminate class rank reporting

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news Farmington, 55024
Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

Students in the Farmington High School class of 2014 will know exactly where they stand academically on graduation day. Next year's seniors might not be so sure.

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FHS administrators have pulled back, at least for now, on a plan to stop reporting class rank. They heard complaints from a number of parents about the plan, which was set to go into effect this school year.

Principal Ben Kusch announced the decision two weeks ago in a letter emailed to parents and held a meeting last week to explain the reasoning behind it. Ranking students, he said, might encourage some to abandon high-rigor Advanced Placement classes in order to protect their grade point average. As a result, more and more students are clustered toward the top of the class and a student can earn a 3.0 grade point average and still be in the bottom half of the class.

A growing number of high schools, including some of the most academically successful in the state, have moved away from reporting class rank, and Kusch said colleges care less than they used to about exactly where students stand in relation to their classmates.

"The trend is, more and more, is it important? Well, yes. But if you don't have it, it's not going to be harmful," Kusch said at a Monday night school board meeting.

Under the school's proposed plan FHS would no longer identify students, at least publicly, by their academic rank. Instead of recognizing the graduating class' top five students and top 10 percent at an end-of-year banquet, the school would honor so-called distinguished scholars who have earned a 4.0 grade point average while taking at least three college-level classes.

FHS counselors would still be able to give out class rank information for scholarships that are meant for the top one or two students in a class.

Some parents and students aren't so sure that's enough, though. And they made sure Kusch knew it. At last week's meeting and again on Monday they raised concerns that eliminating class rank would take away a goal that has been a motivating factor for many students, and that the decision would hurt students' chances of getting into their college of choice.

Sydney Boeckelman, who will start her junior year next week at FHS, said class rank is important to her.

"Class rank is a high motivation to students to keep working hard," Boeckelman said. "I think that healthy motivation is important."

Boeckleman said every college she has toured so far has asked for her class rank. Parent Brett Wharton, who has freshman and junior daughters at FHS this year, said all 12 of the colleges his daughter's visited over the summer asked for class rank.

Other parents also said Monday that they feel class rank is important. Jim Peroutkey, whose daughter graduated in last year's top five students, worried about pulling the class rank goal away from students who have in some cases spent years working toward it.

Mariah Geiger, a 2011 FHS graduate entering her junior year at Macalester College, had mixed feelings about the change. She graduated in the top five of her class, but she's not convinced class rank is all that important. Many of her classmates at Macalester come from schools that did not report rank, she said.

And while rank can be a motivating factor, that's not always good, Geiger said. "

"I do believe sometimes people are slaves to their class rank," she said. "I don't want a school to be a slave to A-producing machines."

Kusch isn't giving up on the idea of eliminating class rank, but he plans to make getting there a longer process. He said Monday the school did a poor job informing parents and students of the change.

"We learned we didn't necessarily put our best foot forward here," Kusch said. "It came off rather brusquely as a mandate. We learned we need to start a process where there should have been one to begin with."

It's not clear yet what that process will look like, but Kusch said he does not want to take a long time to make a decision.

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Farmington Independent 651-463-7730 customer support
Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.
(651) 460-6606
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