Class rank is an antiquated measure that should be altered.
Suncoast has a system of class rank, measuring student achievement compared to other students in the grade, that should be abolished or at least improved. In the class rank system, both the difficulty of a course (whether it is standard, honors, Advanced Placement, or International Baccalaureate) and the grade earned in the course are taken into account to determine an individual’s rank. The two highest ranked in a class at the end of senior year are labeled valedictorian and salutatorian respectively.
Proponents of class rank argue for its importance in the college admissions process. Colleges can look at a class rank and see the academic achievement of a student in context, giving them more understanding of that student’s abilities. At small colleges, class rank tends to be less important. The focus is instead on personal essays, recommendations, and extracurricular experience because admissions officers can sort through the lower volume of applications. But at larger colleges and public universities, class rank makes more of an impact because it is a simple number that admission officers can quickly compare and contrast. At many colleges of all sizes, though, class rank is being passed over in favor of academic measures like scores on standardized tests and AP or IB exams. This is because many colleges are realizing the possible inaccuracy of class rank from high schools with different curriculums, teaching approaches and grading standards.
As colleges diminish the impact of class rank, high schools are doing the same. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, over one half of high schools in the United States no longer report class rank. At Swarthmore University, for example, a highly selective liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, only 44 percent of their admitted students for the class of 2019 came from high schools that reported class rank. This shows that class rank is not an important metric in deciding college admission.
Emphasizing class rank leads to intense competition between students striving to be in the top of their class. Competition between students does have its benefits, possibly pushing individual students to set goals and work hard to reach them, but the system of class rank does not always reward hard work or even academic merit. Students who can figure out which courses to take in order to augment grade point average, make connections with teachers and have the willingness and ability to forego sleep, extracurricular activities, and pleasure in order to take as many classes as possible are rewarded by the system of class rank. In addition, while the competition created by class rank is supposed to motivate students to work harder, it actually does the opposite to students who realize early on that they do not have a chance to get to the top of the class. Furthermore, the differences in grade point average among high-achieving students are, most of the time, statistically insignificant. This leads competent students at high-performing schools such as Suncoast to appear less desirable to colleges.
The system of class rank is deeply rooted in secondary education, although schools are increasingly getting rid of it. If making such a drastic change as abolishing class rank is too much of a transition for Suncoast, simple improvements can also be made to the system. Every student who achieves a certain grade point average can share the title of co-valedictorian. Rank can be kept secret until graduation, or eliminated for the first two years of high school so students can focus on true learning at the beginning. No matter how it is done, it is time for the outdated tradition of class rank to evolve.