For the first time this year, Evanston Township High School
students won’t be ranked according to GPA.
Explaining the decision in a letter to parents last week, assistant superintendent Pete Bavis said that class rank caused unnecessary stress and could lead some colleges to ignore students with great GPAs who simply don’t make a certain cutoff.
“With over half of all high schools no longer providing class rank, eliminating class rank then forces colleges to use a more holistic review of applicants, especially applicants from our high performing high school,” Bavis wrote in the letter.
The District 202 school board voted in June to eliminate class rank immediately, but to report only the highest weighted and unweighted grade point average to colleges at the end of each graduating class’s sixth semester. Their decision was based on the recommendation of a grading committee, composed of teachers and administrators.
In a letter to the board, the grading committee said that colleges use class rank as a factor in an “admission index score,” or might set rank minimums, below which they will not consider a student. What this means is that students with the same class rank at two different schools could have very different GPAs, according to the letter.
“At an academically competitive high school like ETHS, our students can be heavily concentrated near the top of the class,” the grading committee wrote. “For instance, the #5 student and the #25 student are separated by a difference of only .096. The student who is 50th in the class and the one who sits at 100 are separated by .1689.”
“Being evaluated for admission based on the order of ones GPA seems to discount the achievement taking place in the classroom.”
The grading committee also argued that students who rank in the bottom half of the class at a school like Evanston Township High School—which was recently ranked No. 18 in Illinois by U.S. News and World Report—may still be achieving at much higher levels than students at other schools.
"At many colleges these ETHS students will be overlooked for admission solely because of their class rank," the grading committee wrote in its memo. "Colleges use rank in class while making admission decisions, but they don’t have to. In lieu of class rank, colleges are forced to use a more holistic review of applicants."
Evanston Township High School joins the majority of high schools nationwide in dropping class rank. More than half of all high schools no longer report class rank, according to a 2012 study conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Fewer colleges are considering class rank as an important factor in admissions, too, according to the study.
At Northwestern, for example, 62 percent of the 32,772 freshmen applicants did not have class rank, associate provost Mike Mills told the grading committee. And among those who were accepted, 69 percent did not have class rank.
Evanston Township High School will also be joining many neighboring schools by eliminating class rank. Districts that do not report class rank include New Trier District 203, Highland Park/Deerfield District 113, Glenbrook High School District 225 Lake Forest District 115, among many others, according to the grading committee.
To read the full letter to parents from Bavis, visit the ETHS website.