To Rank Or Not To Rank

Students debate whether or not schools should conduct class rank

To Rank Or Not To Rank

Charley Thomas and Amy Collins

Charley Thomas – Yes

The week is sometime in mid-August — boys ranging from freshmen to seniors file onto the football field for tryouts. After a few days of observations, tryouts conclude, and players are sorted into teams according to their skill, work-ethic, natural talent and various other factors.

Fast forward to early December, when a plethora of performing arts students anxiously await the results of their auditions. Behind closed doors, the directors sort through their list of potential lead actors and actresses, eventually settling on a cast that best fits everybody’s individual abilities.

Months later in May, students across Kansas make the trek to Wichita in hopes of capturing a championship title in track and field. The gun goes off, and eight athletes spring forward chasing both the runner in front of them and the prospect of victory. At the conclusion of the race, the runners’ times are ranked in order to determine the winner, and those placing highly are recognized atop their coveted podium spots.

Ranking, as is shown through the three examples above, is both an essential and accepted element of both athletic and performance activities. It allows the best to be celebrated for their efforts and accomplishments and motivates many to strive for success.

Why then, is ranking so strongly criticized when it enters the academic realm? School, just like any extracurricular activity, provides the opportunity for dedicated students to excel, similarly to how a Division-I commit might excel at the State championship, and it should recognize those who do accordingly.

As far as counterarguments go, the preservation of students’ mental health is typically the main reason for class rank criticism. Opponents of the system argue that ranking students by their grades alone may trigger depression, lower self-esteem or cause them to believe their value is wholly dependent upon their grade in algebra or English class. This mindset, however, reveals a drastic double standard.

As mentioned previously, students are ranked in nearly every single other activity that demands dedication, practice and skill. Some of these activities are even academic at their root, such as debate or DECA. Athletes,actors and all other participants alike are able to handle competition in their extracurriculars, so the idea of an academic rank shouldn’t be perceived as something so appalling.

It should also be noted that a class rank doesn’t need to include the entirety of the grade; recognizing the top 20-30% is enough to benefit those students while still avoiding insecurity for those placing lower.

Though it may sound harsh, the fact of the matter is students cannot be sheltered from competition or adversity for the rest of their adult lives. Universities and companies will take the candidates most likely to find success, and both will also foster competitive environments. Exposing students to class rank in high school is therefore mentally preparing them for their futures, something BV stresses as a primary goal.

Another forgotten benefit of class rank is the option to do with it what you will — students dissatisfied with their rank are by no means required to advertise it, change it or submit it to universities. Those who are pleased with their placement, though, are able to include their rank in their college and scholarship applications, some of which even mandate it.

According to College Board, “Most large state universities still require applicants to report class rank (as do many scholarship programs) and rely on it to help sort through the high volume of applications received.”

Not conducting it, therefore, can narrow the opportunities of students who have made their education a top priority throughout their lives.

Conceptually, class rank is no different than any other sport or competition you might watch on TV — it simply recognizes a different set of players.


Amy Collins – No

Too often in academics, we let a number define us, whether it is a score we got on a test, our GPA, or our ACT score. Students in high school face a lot of pressure and there is no need to put even more pressure on students by having class rankings.

A student’s class rank is based on their GPA. In academically inclined schools, having a class rank is not beneficial because many students get a 4.0 GPA or above, which makes it difficult to separate out students and rank them.

It is also harder for students in a more rigorous school to get a higher ranking compared to if they went to a less rigorous school. For example, a student who got ranked 30th in a highly academic school may have ranked 10th in a less academically inclined school.

Class rankings are an unfair way of comparing students from different high schools, especially when admissions to elite colleges and scholarships are on the line.

Some may argue ranking students will motivate them to do better in school and reward those who have worked hard and have a good GPA. Other people believe having class ranks creates healthy competition between students, similar to competition in sports between athletes.

However, when students are only focused on their GPA and how they compare to their peers, they lose sight of what truly matters in school — learning.

Class ranks do nothing but degrade students and negatively impact the learning environment within schools. They cause students to be too obsessed with their GPA and feel jealous of other students’ success, creating unhealthy competition between students. School should be an encouraging environment where learning is the first priority, not rivalry between students.

According to a report made by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, class rankings cause stress and negatively affect teens’ mental health, as well as cause students to lose interest in learning. Students tend to take more challenging classes such as AP or honors classes over a class that might interest them, due to the perks weighted classes have on a student’s GPA and class rank.

Sure, class rankings can be beneficial for the few students who get scholarships or admissions into elite programs, but for most students, class ranks only have a negative effect on them.

Schools are starting to realize that class rankings do more harm than good for students. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, “Nearly 40 percent of high schools have either stopped class rankings or refuse to share those numbers with colleges.”

Academics should not be a competition someone is trying to win, and instead, academics should focus on the growth and encouragement of students.