Parents questioning school for withholding class rank

More than 350 parents have signed a petition asking Clark-Pleasant schools to change its policy and again disclose students’ class rank to parents, but school officials say the information is not necessary and leads to competition.

The school board heard from parents and discussed the issue at a meeting this week.

During the meeting, new board members asked Whiteland Community High School Principal Tom Zobel, Assistant Director of Human Resources John Schilawski and Superintendent Patrick Spray for information on the district’s policy and if there was possibility for change.

Students shouldn’t be in competition with each other sitting in the same class, Zobel said. In a class of 500 students, ranking someone 47th on an application looks less impressive than stating they’re in the top 10 percent, he said.

Whiteland Community High School has not disclosed class rank since 2013, when it decided that rank would only be disclosed to parents and students in terms of percentage groups, such as the top 10 percent. The district decided that continuing to disclose class rank would create unnecessary competition among students and cause students to take non-challenging classes such as study hall in order to get an advantage on their classmates, Schilawski said.

Spray discussed the negative impact on mental health that disclosing the rankings could have on struggling students. He shared student concerns from conversations he had with them.

“A couple of kids started talking about the pressure on them and the pressure to succeed,” Spray said. “The students said ‘our curriculum is really challenging, we take a lot of hard classes, AP, Dual Credit.’ It’s harder than ever to get into state colleges, which are cheaper than private schools. Not only that, but you gotta get a bunch of scholarships. There’s already GPA, SAT scores. That bodes the question: if there is one more data point is that another piece of pressure on kids?”

Lisa Rene, the parent who started the petition, said she was told the school did not rank when she requested that information from a school counselor. She said she needed the rank for her son, a senior, to apply for a scholarship.

“(The counselor) put into writing that if there was an unusual request and a college or a scholarship committee needs the exact rank they can contact Whiteland (High School) directly and then Whiteland would send it to them,” Rene said.

Rene also said she had learned that a few parents had been given their child’s class rank by a school counselor.

Spray would not speak on Rene’s situation in particular, he said that requiring class rank is now a rarity among college applications, but said if it was indeed necessary, the district would find a way to get that information to the school requiring it.

“We don’t want a kid to be at a detriment if a specific scholarship application or university has to have that information,” Spray said. “For the Military Academy selection process that’s an important component. Our counselors would provide that information to liaisons. By and large most application processes don’t require that.”

Spray pointed to other schools in the area, such as Franklin Community High School, Roncalli High School, and most of the schools in Hamilton County as examples of schools that don’t use class rank.

He said, however, there is always a chance for policy change at Clark-Pleasant.

For now, the district remains supportive of the current system. Schilawski encouraged parents to do their own research on the advantages and disadvantages of class rank usage.

“In the rare instance where a scholarship or an admissions to college requests a class rank then we will work with the family in order to provide that,” Schilawski said. “I think probably the best thing to do is gather information from multiple sources, a lot of information is out there about class rank and its uses.”

Parents are questioning whether the school was violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 by not giving out the information about class rank.

“Parents have the right to their children’s scholastic data,” parent Rodney Benker said after the meeting.

Spray said the non-disclosure of class rank does not violate that law since the district does not actively track class rank like it does GPA and class percentile.

Parents like Jim Klenner, however, maintain that parents should have access to any and all academic data regarding their children.

“My whole issue with this is it’s antagonistic to striving for excellence,” Klenner said. “We honor athletes with the record board, we put their jerseys up with their names. We’re not looking for publicity from the board, we’re looking for access. It’s antagonistic to this. They said ‘well if you let it out there’s a lot of jealousy,’ but that only occurs if students declare what their class rank is. I don’t see (what) the big deal (is).”