CHS should consider reinstating class rankings to promote healthy competition in the modern world

Edward Dong

It’s an oft-heard colloquialism that CHS is more like a small college than a high school. In response to its massive student population, CHS has adopted several unique programs over the years, ranging from the beloved Transition to College schedule to the Distinguished Grad program. Increasingly, however, we are seeing the disappearance or rollback of programs promoting competition such as class ranking and the Top Scholars Program. Perhaps it is time to take a step back and consider the renewed benefits of class ranking.

The most likely argument for class ranking is that it stimulates competition in students at a time when competition is an unavoidable part of today’s world. There’s some merit to this assertion. We often hear that the world is shifting towards a greater number of STEM-related careers, but the often unaddressed implication is that the shift to such creative-oriented future occupations necessitates growing competition. Gone are the days where the typical, well-paying jobs are unskilled—jobs where there is little to distinguish workers by caliber. Today, workers are discernable in a number of competitive metrics: leadership, creative ability and work ethic, to name a few. If CHS is to prepare students for the future, we should focus on nurturing a competitive spirit—arguably the most widely applicable future skill—in order to complement our already successful offerings of diverse programs of STEM-related programs aimed at preparing students for the future.

With that in mind, CHS’s reasoning for abolishing class ranking in the first place isn’t very compelling. To clarify, the school scrapped class ranking around the same time it implemented weighted grades. At the time, unweighted grades meant that those taking harder classes would be unfairly penalized, discouraging students from taking more difficult classes in favor of a higher unweighted GPA. Unfortunately, the compound effect of abolishing class ranking and subsequently adding weighted grades is redundant at best—in this scenario, ranking would accurately balance both rigor and success. With weighted grades, ranking retains its value.

For some, the fact that ranking can effectively rank students by grade generates fears of competitive pressure. Although competition is and still remains an integral part of life, there are simple ways to mitigate this. For one, class ranking doesn’t necessarily need to be public; they can easily be made private and and only available to the student of interest, if he chooses to know. That way, even though ranking generates a certain amount of pressure, it would be positive pressure that rewards, not negative pressure that shames.

On the other hand, class ranking doesn’t purely have to be based on GPA, giving more students the opportunity to top their class by playing to their strengths. At this school, we already have an innovative system that accounts for the fact that each student has their own interests: Distinguished Grad. 

Such a system of ranking could incorporate the Distinguished Grad formula into determination of rank, a hybrid that would bring out a combination of benefits present in neither program alone: taking a broader and more specific consideration of grades (Distinguished Grad is unable to distinguished between relatively similar GPAs) along with consideration of extracurricular involvement.

This is just an example among countless others of a schematic that could inspire a new ranking system, one that students would already be comfortable with and used to. There may not be an obvious system to use, but there should be a way of ranking students, and it’s up to the CHS administration and community to determine what method is best. If competition is how the future is defined, then we need to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

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