Establish an Adequate/Accurate Reflection on Student Excellence with the Class Rank System

0 have signed. Let’s get to 200!


To the Plano ISD Board of Trustees:

On April 17, 2017, an open session board meeting was held, bringing up the subject of Class Ranks. The District staff class rank Task Force informed the board of its conclusions from an analysis started in December 2015, and made the following recommendations:

  1. Identify (but do not rank) the Top 10% of graduates, as required by law.
  2. Identify and rank valedictorian and salutatorian.
  3. Implement a Latin System for recognizing students who reach a standard of excellence, to include summa cum laude (“with highest honor”), magna cum laude (“with great honor”), and cum laude (“with honor”) graduates.
  4. Begin the identification of Top 10% in the 11th and 12th grades, when students converge at their respective senior high school campus.
  5. Report GPA to students at the end of each semester beginning in a student’s 9th grade year.
  6. For the junior and senior class at each senior high school, at the end of each semester, publish the GPA reflecting the lowest position in the top 10%.

The Task Force recommended that, if these were put into place, they would take effect starting with the rising freshmen of the 2017-2018 school year, or the Class of 2021.

Because of issues presented in this letter below, we ask for the following.


We first propose a counterplan, which would more adequately solve for the issues posed by this petition, as well as by the task force analysis in itself. This asks for the PISD Board of Trustees to consider and implement:

  1. Identify the top 10%, 25%, and 50% starting 9th grade (freshman year), and continuously publish the GPA cutoff for this.
  2. Identify the top 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9th percentiles, starting 9th grade (freshman year), not necessarily publishing the GPA cutoff for these. This serves to inform top level students/parents of percentiles in order to better cater to scholarships and colleges requiring class percentiles of that caliber.
  3. Identify valedictorian and salutatorian.
  4. Provide actual class rankings on request by students or parents.

We ask the District staff Task Force Group to consider and implement the following:

  1. Provide more detailed data on the 57 college responses. This would mean releasing each college’s individual response on the 7 questions presented towards them.
  2. Provide clear reasoning on how each conclusion on the conclusions section was drawn.

We ask for both the Board of Trustees and the Task Force Group to implement the following:

  1. Due to both miscommunication of Hanover Data to the Board, as well as numerous flaws/unclarified issues found in the analysis and recommendations, allow for further discussion on this issue in subsequent meetings, and do not make any policy decisions until everything has been cleared. This would mean postponing decisions until at least June 6th, if not the next school year, unless every issue in this petition can be adequately responded to, with evidence supporting.

Many issues were addressed by the Task Force analysis, as well as by student, parent, and teacher responses. Some key issues with the current status quo are:

  1. Many parents and students report incidents of cheating or otherwise unethical/inappropriate behavior, as well as higher levels of stress.
  2. Students have lower self-esteem due to rankings that don't measure their personal excellence.
  3. Students cannot control their own class rank because they cannot control other students' ranks, and thus believe they are put in an unfair system.
  4. The system perpetuates unhealthy competition, and tells students they can only achieve honor by overthrowing their peers, and causes students to pick courses from ranking rather than interests.

Now, the Task Force, upon reaching conclusions, made the series of recommendations above in order to attempt to solve for these evident issues. However, there are many fundamental flaws, both within the analysis itself, as well as within the details of the recommendations. Let’s review each one at a time, starting with issues within the analysis.

  1. The claim that class rank is not an important factor in college admissions is insufficiently backed up and contradictory. The Task Force first cited the Hanover Report; however, this in itself is insufficient. The 57 colleges responded were heavily skewed towards lower ranking schools that typically are less stringent on admissions, and are not an adequate representation of the best students in Plano schools. Even from the responses, although ranking was not the most important factor, respondents still weighed it more heavily than Teacher/Counselor recommendation, Essay, Resume and activities. Additionally, the Task Force Analysis itself states the following: “In a high performance school district, students who place in the top 15th, 25th, or even 50th percentile rank represent grade point averages that would be characteristic of more remarkable ranks in more typical districts. Because of this, the practice of indicating to a university that a student from Plano ISD is in a certain percentile rank has the potential to negatively impact the student’s opportunity for admission” (Conclusions, p. 36). However, their ability to draw this conclusion implies that rankings are indeed a contributing factor in admission decisions, and, to be placed such highly on the concern list, is by a non-trivial factor. Thus, the claim by the Task Force to the Board of Trustees on April 17th that class rank was largely negligible to college applications and decisions, by insufficiency on the analysis, miscommunication between the Hanover data and the final information presented to the Board of Trustees, and the analysis’s own conclusions.
  2. With this claim of the unimportance of class rankings, the Task Force goes on to completely dismiss the survey responses of over 7000 Plano students, 2600 parents, and 500 teachers as simply a lack of insight. The responses of those who are currently undergoing the status quo cannot be ignored, and their reports of increased motivation, admission importance, and scholarship acceptance importance may be an essential part of maintaining the excellency that is present in Plano schools. Especially because it can be seen that ranks indeed do show importance, these statistics must not be ignored.
  3. A large portion of what was presented of the Hanover Report to the Board of Trustees was in relation to perspectives from other school districts in Texas, which had experienced degrees of success with modified ranking systems. However, every single one of the districts cited in the Task Force analysis ranked the top 10%, thus showing that the increase they saw in admissions to colleges like UT may not be replicated by the Task Force recommendations for PISD.
  4. The largest problem that the Task Force puts out in the current system is the apparent stress caused by the ranking system. However, throughout their entire study, there has been no concrete evidence showing how removing rankings entirely will decrease stress. Remember, the evidence shown simply draws the conclusion that the system causes unnecessary stress, but the analysis fails to link this effect to the issue of ranks. Additionally, this evidence comes from student reports, yet students also report that this ranking system is in fact necessary for the future, and it also increases motivation, which drives an individual further towards success. With abolishing ranks entirely and thus simply withdrawing all information from each parent and child (to the point of not even knowing the top 10% cutoff until 11th grade), this could increase stress, as well as lose all the benefits currently given by the ranking system. The analysis fails to consider any of these detriments, even though they are on the same side of one coin.

Now that we’ve reviewed the analysis in itself, let’s go over the Task Force Recommendations. These were put into place to attempt to solve for the issues listed beforehand in the current system, but either don’t solve for or worsen other factors in many places:

  1. The proposed change does not support the UT Auto Admission, nor does it help students get admitted to UT Honor program, which typically requires a top 2-3% ranking in high school class; and a top 7% ranking for auto-admission. These percentages can vary from year to year. Without auto-admission, PISD students will have to go through the more lengthy and strenuous regular admission process. The Board itself was unsure of this, and without a definite conclusion that this will not affect any number of students negatively, this change only creates more stress in students, and further worsens the issues in the current system.
  2. The proposed change does not support the auto admissions as granted by other Texas public universities: Texas A&M offers the top 25% students “academic admission.” Texas Tech offers “assured admission” to first quarter graduates with 24 ACT or 1180 SAT, second quarter graduates with 26 ACT or 1260 SAT and third quarter graduates with 27 ACT and 1290 SAT. The recommendations only accommodate for the state required 10% for auto admission, but fails to cater to a large number of other admission policies, all which rely on percentile ranks.
  3. Although the Task Force claims otherwise, there are quite a few scholarship programs that require or strongly recommend showing rankings. For example, UT Dallas's McDermott Scholars is strongly based off a top 5% rank. Ohio State University gives out “Eminence Scholarship” to students around top 3% of their class. University of Miami's Singer Scholarship and Clemson University's National Scholars both only consider top 1% of class for its , and there are many others. The Hanover Report also asks two questions, being provisions of class ranks, as well as whether rankings were used, and did not distinguish the answers, so there could be a significant number of colleges using class rankings. Even 1 or 2 colleges using ranks as a primary method of determining scholarships outweighs 20 or 30 that don’t, because this still negatively affects chances for students.
  4. Even if ranks are not directly used for all colleges, a trend showing personal excellence, as what the recommendations advocate for, is greatly magnified and easily accessible by colleges when given ranks. An improvement from rank 25% to 20% to 15% in the course of 3 years is potentially game changing when it comes to college admission decisions, and only providing 10% will cause many students to lose the opportunity to show that improving trend.

The Task Force recommendations failed to account for all of these indefinite impacts on students many years into the future. It simply focused on the small amount of positive benefits completely abolishing ranks would have, and ignores the fact that there are many conclusions that have not yet been drawn, that could affect students and cause more issues. Reaching a definite conclusion cannot happen through trial-and-error; an entire graduating class from PISD should not be guinea pigs for a potentially harmful system.


Again, because of these issues listed above, we, as students and parents directly affected by the proposed changes, ask for the Board of Trustees to consider and implement the following:

  1. Identify the top 10%, 25%, and 50% starting 9th grade (freshman year), and continuously publish the GPA cutoff for this.
  2. Identify the top 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9th percentiles, starting 9th grade (freshman year), not necessarily publishing the GPA cutoff for these. This serves to inform top level students/parents of percentiles in order to better cater to scholarships and colleges requiring class percentiles of that caliber.
  3. Identify valedictorian and salutatorian.
  4. Provide actual class rankings on request by students or parents.

We ask the District staff Task Force Group to consider and implement the following:

  1. Provide more detailed data on the 57 college responses. This would mean releasing each college’s individual response on the 7 questions presented towards them.
  2. Provide clear reasoning on how each conclusion on the conclusions section was drawn.

We ask for both the Board of Trustees and the Task Force Group to implement the following:

  1. Due to both miscommunication of Hanover Data to the Board, as well as numerous flaws/unclarified issues found in the analysis and recommendations, allow for further discussion on this issue in subsequent meetings, and do not make any policy decisions until everything has been cleared. This would mean postponing decisions until at least June 6th, if not the next school year, unless every issue in this petition can be adequately responded to, with evidence supporting.

We greatly appreciate efforts made to relieve students of some pressures of high school; however, before implementing any policy, all detriments must be carefully reviewed and deemed of negligible impact. As of now, this has not happened, and until it does, we cannot support the implementation of the Task Force recommendations.


Thank you.



Today: PISD2021 is counting on you

PISD2021 needs your help with “Missy.bender@pisd.edu : Establish an Adequate/Accurate Reflection on Student Excellence with the Class Rank System”. Join PISD2021 and 163 supporters today.