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August 13, 2009
Dear HPISD Parents and Staff,

The HPISD School Board voted Aug. 11 to limit class rank to HPHS students in the top 10 percent. Under state law, the top 10 percent must be ranked for admissions consideration to all Texas public universities.

The new policy goes into effect this fall with the senior class of 2010.

The decision to revise the class rank policy follows considerable study by a committee of HPISD parents, students, faculty members and administrators during the 2008-09 school year.

After hearing the report from the committee and examining the study, the HPISD School Board and HPISD administrators came to the consensus that the practice of ranking all students puts those students who are not in the top 10 percent of the class at a disadvantage for college admissions. During its June 23 meeting, trustees asked administrators to revise the existing policy.

To read the new policy, click here: http://www.hpisd.org/Portals/0/docs/public meetings/EIC.local.08.12.09.pdf

The following is a Q & A regarding the new policy:

1.  My child is graduating in 2010, so will he/she have a class rank when applying to college this fall?

Numerical class rank will not appear on any student transcript. However, students in the top 10 percent will receive a Certification of Rank form listing their numerical class rank. This form will accompany the transcripts to all colleges and universities, in-state, out-of-state, private or public.

2. How and when will my child know whether he/she is in the top 10 percent of the class?
At the end of the first semester of their sophomore year and every semester thereafter, students will learn the weighted grade point average (GPA) representing the 10th percentile in their class. This will allow them to choose courses according to their individual academic goals. The class rank will first be provided to the students in the top 10 percent of the class in the fall of their senior year.
3.  How will this affect graduation honors, including valedictorian and salutatorian?
The tradition of honoring the valedictorian, salutatorian and top 10 graduates will continue. The district will also continue to honor students who graduate Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude and Cum Laude. Those honors will be determined by GPA instead of class rank. The HPHS administrative team will announce the GPA targets for the honors this fall after running comparative calculations.
4.  What is the reason for the policy change?

Since the vast majority of Highland Park High School students go on to pursue a degree in higher education after graduation, it is crucial that they receive close consideration from colleges and universities. HPHS students are a high-performing group, and as a result, there is a large concentration of students with high GPAs. This has two results:
  • Students with relatively high GPAs often do not have high numerical class ranks. For example, out of a recent class of 462, a student with a GPA of 3.29 on a 4.0 scale would be ranked 350th in the class, according to the study. This relatively low class rank could work against the student when his/her college application is being considered.
  • Small differences in GPA result in large differences in class rank. For example, a student in the same class of 462 with a GPA of 3.89 would rank 115th. Compared to the student mentioned earlier with a GPA of 3.29, that means a difference of .6 of a point in GPA would result in a difference of 235 places in class rank, according to the example cited in the study.
5.  How will colleges respond when they receive a transcript that does not include class rank?

Colleges and universities typically prefer that class rank be listed on students' applications, primarily because it simplifies the application process. However, if class rank is not listed, admissions officials report that they give more weight to SAT and ACT scores, along with GPA and other criteria. According to the study, college admissions officers reported that "when class rank is omitted from a student's application, colleges consider other factors more closely.  The most frequent response (17 out of 40) showed colleges would use GPA, whether alone, combined with course rigor, weighted GPA, GPA combined with SAT, GPA recalculated on core classes only, or GPA recalculated by some other method.  In addition, many colleges will go to lengths to estimate rank or develop another objective measure by which to assess applicants." 

6.  Other than college admissions considerations, what factors weighed into the decision to change the class-rank policy?

HPHS students and parents report high levels of stress in a very competitive environment. According to the study, students striving for the highest GPA and class rank often take classes based on grade-point weighting rather than based on genuine interest. In those cases, "students are unintentionally taught that the number is the ultimate measure by which to guide personal, educational, and intellectual development," the study states.

A 2005 National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) trend survey  found that "schools that have eliminated the practice (of class rank) cite reasons such as giving their students a better chance at college admission, curbing student anxiety, and promoting the intrinsic value of learning among their students."
7.   How do other high schools rank students?

Nationally, 92% of high schools report class rank information in some form, such as decile or quartile information, bar graphs or other representations of a student's performance among classmates, according to NACAC. However, the committee found that "more and more high schools, private and public, are eliminating class rank ... 40% of public and private high schools do not assign (numerical) class rank."
8.  How can I learn more about the study?

A team of 30 undertook the study and reported its findings to the HPISD School Board May 26. The team traced the history of the class rank policy in HPISD, surveyed high schools, colleges and universities across the country, reviewed state legislation, compiled, disaggregated mountains of data and studied published articles on the topic. A complete copy of the 27-page report is posted at: http://www.hpisd.org/Portals/0/docs/curriculum/class_rank_report_final.pdf
9.   If I have additional questions, whom should I ask?

Contact your HPHS counselor, who will explain changes in depth through in-person meetings and other communication with students and parents.

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