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Minooka parents still seeking answers regarding class rank

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

MINOOKA – A public forum to discuss the elimination of class rank at Minooka Community High School left some parents upset and a few cautiously optimistic.

MCHS administrators held the open forum Monday night with a goal of getting specific questions and concerns in writing so they could take the information back to the board of education, Superintendent Jim Colyott said.

But the roughly 30 parents in attendance had a different understanding of the evening’s format and wanted not only to be heard, but answers to their questions.

Parent Melissa Knaub, in a phone call following the meeting, said she believed parents expected the forum to be a question and answer session.

“I understand the superintendent’s point, but the crowd wanted to discuss it openly,” she said.

The proposal to eliminate class rank was made Nov. 5 to the District 111 Board of Education by a team of instructional leaders and was initially scheduled to be voted on two weeks later.

Parents, the majority against the proposal, packed the meeting. Many were outraged at the idea of doing away with not only class rank, but also valedictorian and salutatorian statuses.

The proposal was pulled from the next board agenda with the promise of getting more community input before making a decision.

The first forum, scheduled for the first week of December, was canceled because only one person called to RSVP.

At Monday’s forum, MCHS Principal Darcie Kubinski explained the concept of eliminating class rank surfaced during discussions last year after the district restructured its grading scale. Eliminating the system is a growing trend among high schools in the nation, she said.

Less than 50 percent of high schools now report class rank to colleges for admissions or scholarship applications, according to the proposal.

The results of a community survey by the district showed that out of 433 respondents, 68.6 percent were against eliminating class rank and 31.4 were in favor. Of the faculty responses, 24.6 percent were against eliminating and 75.4 percent in favor.

The survey results, along with information gathered at the forum and from conversations with parents, will be shared with the school board, Director of Community Relations Dave DiLorenzo said.

Despite the research presented by MCHS administrators, some parents at Monday’s forum did not appear convinced. Parent Dawn Billie said the information was taken out of context.

“I don’t think it’s fair how you presented this,” she said. “They cherry picked what they wanted [from the research].”

While parents and a few students continued asking questions, Colyott urged them to work together in groups and write down collective thoughts.

“I am hearing you loud and clear,” Colyott said at one point, adding that he needed the concerns in writing to bring to the board.

Students eventually began writing down concerns expressed by the group.

Many attendees fear removing class rank will negatively impact higher-achieving students when it comes to college and scholarship admissions. They also noted that athletes constantly are given awards and accolades, while class rank is one of the only ways the top academic students are recognized.

The majority of the instructional leaders, on the other hand, believe class rank negatively impacts the majority of students who rank somewhere in the middle of their class.

“Our goal would really be to celebrate our individual students and their accomplishments,” Kubinski said.

Parent Michael Geever asked if students at schools that already have eliminated class rank have done any better and how the change will affect students in the short and long term.

“Is their GPA going to go up because they are less stressed?” he asked. “That’s what you have to decide when there’s something that’s so passionate in the community.”

In response to follow-up questions the next day, Kubinski said the district appreciated the contributions from those who attended the forum. She said the input and feedback received will be valuable as the district explores the issue and as next steps are determined.

Information about what happens next will be provided through the district’s website and direct communication with families, Kubinski said.

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