The elimination of class rank has brought together two very unlikely allies in Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200: longtime board member Barb Intihar and a longtime thorn in the district's side, Mark Stern.
At a meeting Wednesday, both said going through with the plan was a bad idea, although for very different reasons.
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Stern told the board eliminating the traditional measuring stick of academic success would mean a less-than-complete picture of students to their prospective colleges just to save them from hurt feelings. Intihar, however, said she was worried removing one of a college's standards for a student with nothing to replace it was dangerous.
"I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with Mr. Stern, albeit for different reasons," Intihar said. "We have to be very cautious about pressing down this road. Colleges consider many factors (in accepting applicants) and we don't always know them ... We need something in place that puts the students' performance in context."
Intihar was the lone dissenting vote and the district will phase in class rank's elimination starting with next fall's incoming freshman class. Officials have said in the past the timetable allows students who have worked toward improving class rank during their first three years of high school to still benefit from that work.
Intihar has consistently opposed the measure since it first was introduced in December.
"The way it stands tonight, I find it very difficult because if we don't come up with something suitable to replace it after eliminating class rank, we are at the point of no return," she said.
But board member Ken Knicker said the district should have ample opportunity to come up with a good replacement.
"We have (three) years to determine what those parameters will be," he said. "We have plenty of time to do that."
Board President Rosemary Swanson said removing class rank will help the confidence of those who fall behind early.
"To have that staring you in the face, it has to be a demotivator," she said.
Stern often addresses the school board and runs a blog that is usually critical of the school district.
During public comments, he told the board removing class rank amounts to keeping colleges from seeing an entire student experience when they apply. Additionally, he said he thought the move was partially motivated by a desire to suppress competition.
"If you want colleges to see the whole student, you give more information, not less," he said. "Leading the world in self-esteem is not going to help us lead the world in science and math."
Last month, the board was presented with a study that showed many area school districts, including Naperville Unit District 203 and Indian Prairie Unit District 204, have successfully eliminated the ranking system.