Loudoun County schools weigh dropping class rank, shortened school year

Loudoun County Public Schools is considering elimination of class rank for graduating seniors and shortening the school year by five days amid the coronavirus shutdown.

During a virtual school board meeting Tuesday, Assistant Superintendent Ashley Ellis said, “Some school divisions in Virginia are using this extended school closure as an opportunity to considering removing class rank,” which has been historically used as a method of comparing students’ success.

“We know this is a topic some folks are really passionate about,” Ellis said. “It’s a really important topic that board members will hear about from their constituents, so it’s not a decision that we make lightly.”

Ellis noted that the College Board has reported a trend among selective universities toward discounting class rank as a factor, leaning toward more focus on SAT scores and grade point average.

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With schools closed since March, the validity of class rank has been raised since students will not receive numeric fourth-quarter grades.

Ellis listed three possible options for class rank, in no particular order:

  • Discontinue calculation and reporting of class rank.
  • Use Semester 1 grades for determining class rank for the 2019-20 school year.
  • Discontinue calculation of individual class rank, but report ranges, i.e. top 10%.

In other Northern Virginia school systems, Ellis said Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria schools do not calculate rank. Arlington County determines what range a student falls into. Prince William County does utilize class rank.

School Board member Beth Barts, of Leesburg, pointed out many current seniors have already submitted their class rank in applying to colleges.

On the topic of the school year’s calendar, Ellis said the system is considering converting the last school day from June 10 to June 5.

Several board members were cool to the idea of shortening the school year, including Jeff Morse, of the Dulles District: “We’re being entrusted to educate our children, and we should be taking advantage of every school day we can.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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