Students rush between class periods at Fairfax High School.(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Education

Opinion: Class rank system does more harm than good

The class ranking system discourages students to explore other extra curricular interests.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/guerygemard/" target="_self">Gemard Guery</a>

Gemard Guery

January 27, 2023

Class rank is a system that ranks students based on their cumulative grade point average.  Typically, it utilizes the weighted GPA that takes the difficulty of the classes into account in addition to the grade earned in the class.  This system is in use in schools all around the world.  However, in recent years, many schools have begun to change their class rank systems.

Class rank doesn’t truly benefit students and should be abolished or changed within high schools.

High school is meant to be a time when students explore and discover interests they may have.  Class rank prevents students from exploring their interests.  Students often worry about how their rank will be affected if they take classes that they’re actually interested in so they take the hardest classes robbing themselves of the opportunity to learn more about what they like.  Rather than taking classes students may be interested in, they take classes that may raise their GPAs higher.

Additionally, more than half of all high schools have completely done away with class rank.  A lot of private and top-tier high schools have realized that class rank penalizes many students who have done amazingly during their high school career but are unable to make it to the top 10% despite maintaining a phenomenal academic record.

Class rank is also incredibly relative based on what school you attend.  Schools, curriculums, and grading scales are all different based on what school a student may attend.   Even the way class rank is calculated is different around the country and the world.  Some schools take personal qualities and school involvement into consideration in addition to GPA.

Some schools decide who gets the valedictorian honor based on whether you earned a certain GPA rather than if you had the highest.  The system is so different based on where a student goes to school and a student with amazing grades may be low at one school whilst a student with simply okay grades may be at the top of the class.

Even college admission officers all around the country (especially at selective schools) have realized that class rank may not be an important factor in admissions decisions.  Colleges already have so much information about a given student with GPA, their transcript, extracurriculars, and recommendations that class rank is becoming less important in admissions decisions.

Class rank can also contribute to an incredibly toxic school culture.  Oftentimes, schools pride themselves on building a community and being part of a “family” within their school.  Class rank works against it as students want to have the highest number possible.

School can easily become an unhealthy competition where a student may want to see their peers do worse than them or fail.   This competition also makes students who work really hard feel really bad about themselves because despite trying their best, they aren’t number one.

Class rank doesn’t take into account extenuating circumstances that may have affected a student’s academic performance.  It ranks you and has no regard for what a student may have gone through during the course or any moment within their high school career that may have resulted in their grade point average lowering.

Many students entered or experienced most of their high school careers in the midst of a pandemic.  Nothing about those school years during the pandemic were normal and a lot of students had personal, familial, mental, and physical issues that had an impact on their academic performance.  It’s truly unfair to those students and even if they get back on track, their GPA and therefore class rank will still be affected.

Some may argue that eliminating class rank is unfair to students who may be at the top of their class and want that honor to be included in their application.  This argument is wrong because students are honored for their commitment to academic excellence all the time.

Through honor societies, honor roll, awards ceremonies, and more, those students are given many opportunities to be recognized for their academic and personal achievements.  Eliminating class rank doesn’t stop those students from getting the recognition they deserve.

There are many solutions or routes that can be taken with class rank in addition to eliminating it as a whole.

One solution is to make rank optional.  Many schools around the country have made rank optional and given students the opportunity to decide whether or not their rank gets reported to colleges.  By giving students the option to omit their rank, students aren’t put at a disadvantage if they don’t like their rank because colleges won’t have to see it.

Another solution is changing our ranking system to the Latin honor society.  Rather than ranking by number, utilizing the Latin Honor Society and recognizing students by naming them Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, and Cum Laude would still honor students who have maintained great standing in their high school career.  Students can be more focused on themselves and their performance rather than the performance of everyone else.

Schools can also simply rank until a certain point.  Some schools just rank until the top 10 or 25 percent of the class and everyone else simply goes unranked.  That way, those students aren’t put at a disadvantage in their college application process.

Class rank truly does more harm than good and serious discourse must be had about how it can be changed or eliminated in order to achieve school’s main purpose: ensuring every student reaches their fullest academic and personal potential.

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