Should GHS have class rank?

Class rank—the measure of a student’s grades against the other students in their class—has long been used as an indication of a student’s ability to thrive in a competitive environment, and determines the valedictorian and salutatorian of a graduating class, but is class rank an effective or fair measure of a student’s worth?

Class rank can serve as not only a factor for college admissions, but also as a reflection of the amount of work put into school. GHS has weighted Grade Point Averages, meaning honors and Advanced Placement classes boost students’ GPAs more than CP classes. Because of this, many students are pushed to take harder and more educationally stimulating classes. It gives students a purpose, a reason to do school work, and an actual reward for those who strive to be the best.

“It’s my motivation,” junior Elijah Sarrouf said. “It is part of the reason I really try in school. It allows me to keep track of my progress as a student, and having the statistical proof to show for hard work is super rewarding and a good incentive to keep learning.”

It’s not as though this is the only time in life where there will be competition either. Who gets a job, a promotion, or a raise is also going to be determined by a comparison of people against each other, so why should it matter that there is also that type of competition in high school? There’s also no real punishment for not being number one, so if you choose to not look at your rank, it doesn’t have to matter to anyone else.

However, despite motivating some, a class rank system breeds academic anxiety and a toxic struggle with a number on a piece of paper that has no real application outside of the classroom and college admissions. Even if it did, is class rank indicative of a student’s real knowledge and capability to succeed?

“I think class rank promotes unhealthy competition with classmates and a lot of unnecessary stress,” sophomore Thea Cunningham said. “It also disadvantages those with learning disabilities, and because of weighted grades, it can become a competition of who can take the most AP classes. Not everybody is good at the traditional style of learning, and it can just make you feel worse about yourself.”

Minute differences in GPA can sometimes be the determining factor of who gets valedictorian or salutatorian, and one assignment can account for that difference. Some people have more responsibilities outside of school, and a few points taken off for late work or one missing homework being able to change your class rank disfavors those students. And is it even that necessary? High schools like Newton North and Lincoln Sudbury Regional do not have a valedictorian and it doesn’t make a difference in daily student life.

Adjustments of the current system have been used in other schools that are more equitable to students, or place less pressure on everyone to fight tooth and nail for what is deemed a good rank, but most of the possibilities for change can also be unfair. The idea of having unweighted GPAs contribute to class rank is disproportionate, because honors and AP classes are typically harder than CP classes, and are graded on a harsher scale, so considering them equal is not an accurate measure of how much effort is required to be put into the classes.

Personally, I think that far more students are damaged by class rank than benefit from it. It’s certainly not a fair measurement of somebody’s worth, and the people who depend on it for motivation are negatively affected as well, pushing themselves to their limit in order to beat someone else, which most of the time is unhealthy and in my experience can hurt friendships. I don’t think that class rank should be completely taken away either, because having an incentive to work hard and care about school is really important to a lot of people, and removing it would be biased against those who rely on it.

To me, the best choice would be an opt-in system where students can choose if they would like to be considered for valedictorian or have an official place in class rank.  Class rank stresses me out so much, even if my GPA is considered good, or I get too competitive, which creates tensions with some of my friends. The people that like the competition can still get a rank, but the people who become stressed by the ranking system don’t have to get one.

At the end of the day, class rank is just a statistic. Whether it is displayed on your transcript or not, it exists. Someone will always have the “best” GPA, regardless of if your school gives them recognition or not. But, the implication of someone being the valedictorian, and the pressure that comes from the existence of a tier list of people, contributes to an emotionally harmful environment that promotes learning to win, instead of learning to learn.