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– Wisconsin High Schools Mandated to Implement Class Rankings Decline

A new law in Wisconsin will mandate most high schools in Dane County, including Madison’s, to implement class rankings, a practice that is becoming less common. This requirement has raised concerns as it may overlook the rigor of the courses students choose to take.

The legislation, championed by a Republican lawmaker, acknowledges the potential issues with class rankings and suggests that adjustments in grading methods and future amendments could mitigate these challenges. The primary aim of the law is to provide clarity for students aspiring to attend University of Wisconsin institutions, which have traditionally been opaque about their admissions criteria.

Under this new law, UW-Madison, the state’s primary public university, must accept the top 5% of students based on class rank at the end of their junior year, while the regional UW campuses are required to admit the top 10%.

Despite these requirements, class rankings are considered outdated by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, as they can restrict access to advanced courses and lead to disparities in grading policies that may disadvantage students during college admissions.

In Dane County, only a minority of school districts still calculate class rank, with some maintaining it for scholarship application purposes. Madison School District, for instance, ceased including class rank on transcripts in 2009 after studies showed no adverse impact on students without this information during the college admissions process.

Originally, the law proposed various factors for ranking students, such as GPA, ACT scores, and coursework. However, an amendment prior to enactment stipulated that only GPA should determine class rank. This amendment has raised concerns that students avoiding challenging courses but earning high grades could rank higher than those taking more rigorous classes.

While the law allows for weighted grading systems to address course difficulty, only a few Dane County districts have such systems in place. The bill’s sponsor emphasized that the legislation resulted from extensive consultations with stakeholders, including the UW system, and expressed openness to further discussions on improving the law.

The transparency of admissions criteria at UW-Madison has been a point of contention, with redacted documents provided in response to inquiries, citing the need to protect trade secrets and maintain a fair review process for applicants.

In conclusion, the new law aims to enhance transparency in college admissions but raises questions about the relevance of class rankings in modern education practices.