Top Chicago Public Schools students says: Get rid of class rank

Report cards in the Chicago Public Schools will be handed out to parents and guardians next week.  Even though high school class rank won't be determined until the end of second quarter, my Chicago student Andres Valencia says CPS should stop ranking students based on grade point average.  This is his guest post:

I’m in the top 1% of my class and think the class ranking system should be eliminated. In the beginning of my freshman year, I was number one and, inadvertently, there was always a constant pressure to be in that spot for all my years in high school. However, after my second year in school, I noticed that my ranking was falling; at the same time, my unweighted GPA was still a 4.0. I realized that other students were taking more AP classes than I was, but I was still taking honors classes along with other AP classes as well.

Nevertheless, in my sophomore year, I decided to take a regular art class instead of taking another AP class. I wanted to take art because it was a class that interested me and captivated my attention. I still desired to be number one in my class but not at the cost of taking more AP classes I did not want. Although some people may disagree and would want to have a ranking system in school because they feel the system encourages students to perform at their best, in my experience, it had the opposite effect because I focused more on the number of AP classes that I took rather than if I was going to enjoy the class. Consequently, I want to see the ranking system eliminated because there is an intentional pressure for students to always maintain or achieve a certain rank.

Furthermore, this discourages other students at the bottom. According to a blog post titled “The case for abolishing class rank,” Alfie Kohn writes, “A decade ago, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling 40% of high schools had either stopped ranking their students or refused to share those numbers with colleges—a shift that apparently has had no effect on students’ prospects for admission.” This shows a trend among high schools that are eliminating class rank. In addition, the elimination of class rank would not affect future applications for college admissions.

In a Washington Post article, Moriah Balingit reports, “Dartmouth College’s Class of 2018 profile also lists statistics about how many of its students were top-ranked in high school, but with a notation that only a third of students came from schools that provide it.” This shows that many top universities are not taking into consideration the class rank of their students; in contrast, many students still hold a high value of the ranking system.

Alfie Kohn also states that “teenagers won’t pursue an interest in, say, taking music or journalism for fear of lowering their average. Those classes normally do not carry bonus points.” Students are forgetting to pursue classes they are going to enjoy. There is a feeling of anxiety for students to have a great number of AP classes in order to ensure their ranking.

Joselyn a CPS senior in the top 1% of her class says, “I feel that it's not fair for all of the students who do not want to take AP classes because they have extracurricular activities; at the same time, other students are just focusing on their schoolwork and not doing anything else, which places them in a higher ranking.” She thinks the ranking system at the school does not take into account extracurricular activities or types of jobs students may have after school. Her view of the ranking system has slowly changed over time. She says, “At first I was for the ranking system because it’s based on your grades, so your grades help you be in the top. However, as time passed I found out the way you were ranked and, in my eyes, this seemed unfair to just have your grades and amount of AP classes you take define your rank.”

Another CPS student who is also a senior and in the top 1% of his class is David. “I don't believe the class ranking system is negative, but the stigma and culture around it definitely is. The numbers seem to get into people’s heads and force them to establish their value with their rank due to the pressure received from their peers and even parents when their number is made public.” David is telling a dark side of the class ranking. People often expect students in the top to have a consistent number, which can cause anxiety and depression in some students. He also says, “People take one glance at your rank and believe they have the complete story. If you are at the top, they think you are better than everyone and you are guaranteed to make millions, and get into the best Ivy Leagues. If you are at the bottom, you are plain stupid and school is not for you. It is a double-edged sword we implicate upon ourselves due to our culture of comparison.”

While there are still many schools and students that support the ranking system, the facts demonstrate the system is archaic and does not accurately represent students’ academic and extracurricular achievements. If a school wants to have a ranking system it needs to take into consideration students involved in sports, extracurricular activities, community service, and jobs--not just the amount of AP classes a student has taken. While it may be true that colleges still consider a student’s ranking for applications, the data suggests that more universities and colleges are not taking into consideration a student’s ranking.

I understand that grades are important to students.  They are still important to me, but there are other aspects of school that are not taken into account. When I started high school, my main goal was to get good grades and hopefully learn something from every class. However, when I found out that I was number one in my class, I felt pressured from peers and myself to not go down. There was always a constant fear of someone surpassing me and taking my ranking. Consequently, a ranking system made me more anxious about my grades and less concerned about class material.

Andres Valencia is a senior in the Chicago Public Schools.

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