Breaking down the competition: Lenape Regional phases out public class ranks

LRHSD is easing the stress of high school on its students with a change in policy, aimed to highlight achievements over placements.

High school can be a demanding time for many students, and the resulting stress can be increased by a deep desire to be No. 1.

Lenape Regional High School District will do its part to curtail that when it eventually ceases publication and notification of student ranks, a move announced at the board’s Jan. 8 meeting.

Every junior in the high school learns about placement among peers through transcripts at the end of their sixth and seventh semesters and class ranks. The publication of the ranks, district officials said, creates unnecessary, unintended competition for students to reach the top, bringing on stress, anxiety and other problems.

We had many students tell us over a long period of time that often they choose classes based on what the class will do for their rank, and not necessarily the interest they have in the course and its content,” curriculum director and instructor Heather Xenakis said at the  meeting.

Ending the publication and notification of student ranks in the graduating classes will not take effect immediately. Instead, Xenakis explained, each incoming freshman class — until the senior class of 2024 — will have the new policy apply to them.

We didn’t think it would be fair to say that any of our current students, we’re going to change the rules on them,” Assistant Superintendent Matt Webb explained. “They’re going to start and finish on the same rule.”

The policy was adopted at the board meeting, with all members except David Stow voting yes.

Xenakis said all four of the district’s high schools – Lenape, Shawnee, Cherokee and Seneca — surveyed close to 100 colleges and universities on the need to provide ranks. Only two of them said they would require that information.

The top factors that those colleges were looking for are the students’ GPA, rigor of the high school classes, SAT or ACT scores as well as the holistic scoring of the student for that college,” Xenakis explained.

“Those were the themes the admissions officers were looking for in the schools we were able to speak to.”

District officials also reached out to 12-plus “like” school districts that have made ranks private, and the districts’ decisions did not negatively impact the students or their learning experiences.

Following the board meeting, Webb said ranks do not fairly measure a student’s achievement and abilities. A college will see that a student is ranked 100 out of 150, but has expended immense effort into earning their grades.

Xenakis noted that the district has classes weighted differently than others, including Advanced Placement, honors and college prep. Students still will receive two GPAs, one weighted and one unweighted.

To her delight, incoming students would then be encouraged to take courses benefiting their intended career paths rather than competing against one another.

The first thing we need to have a conversation about is taking away the stigma or the racing of getting to the top of your class,” Xenakis explained. “We have so many high-achieving kids and there are years where we’ll to have multiple kids with 6.0 GPAs or more.

“That’s all what it’s about.

Students taking college prep, remedial or other courses will see a benefit from the new policy to withhold ranking information. Xenakis said there will no longer be a way for students to compare their achievements, freeing them for courses they feel are appropriate.

We know that certain students will play the game of which classes can affect them, and some have no idea what that can look like,” she stated. 

If a parent or student needs a rank for scholarship, college application or other reasons,  there are “mechanisms in place” to allow that, Xenakis added. The affected class, however, would not need such information until roughly two to three years into the future.

Interested parents and students can read the new policy by visit LRHSD.org and selecting Rank in Class guidelines under the students and parents tab.

We wanted to communicate that we believe after our research, our study and conversations with people that our students’ level of achievement is not necessarily or equitably communicated in one single, transcripted measure, which is the class rank,” Xenakis concluded.

“We are pleased that the incoming class in the district will not have a public class rank.”