Debate over class rank ignites between students and admin

By Jakob Ronimous
Staff Reporter

Recently, a debate has been sparked over schools, including WCHS, omitting class rank from students’ transcripts, leading some to think that this change in policy schools have been following is limiting students’ ability to apply for college. However, schools have been following a recent trend of doing away with class rank almost entirely. The National Association of Secondary School Principals reports, “up to 50% of schools no longer report class rank.”

Some argue that when students are given an exact rank as a number of their worth, in some cases it would make them seem lesser. To avoid this, WCHS used percentages in order to cast a better light on students who might be perceived as lesser because of their rank. While some may agree with the utilization of the percentage system, it’s not without its criticisms. Many say that without a class rank, students would find it more difficult to get accepted to colleges because their peers would have more information than WCHS students. Benji Betts, Associate Principal, explained why the percentage system is the better choice.

“You can apply to any school with a class percent. Admission counselors across the state and country understand how to interpret class percentages and scholarship entries will usually accept percent as well,” Betts said.

According to the Daily Journal, more than 350 students have signed a petition to have WCHS disclose class rank. WCHS has not used a class rank since 2013, and parents have been raising concerns about it. WCHS Principal Tom Zobel explained why the school chose not to use class rankings.

“It’s beneficial to students who are not at the very top of the class, and are more in the middle. To say they’re at a certain percent rank as opposed to their actual number. If there are 400 students in a class, and the student who ranks 49 out of 400, it gives a better perception of the student to say they’re in the top 10 percent as opposed to 49 out of 400. It’s better for students when they apply for scholarships and universities,” Zobel said.

Some students disagree, arguing that the percentages don’t work for them and that they would prefer a specific class rank. Some students say that because only people with ties to the administrator can view their class rank, the system is unfair and doesn’t treat students equally. Luke Dewitt, a junior at WCHS, discussed his position on class rank.

“I personally believe a blunt number ranking system would be best, and I believe all students should get access to their rank. Some parents disagree with WCHS’ system, and for good reason; we should not be put at a disadvantage in order to placate the feelings of others because they are not where they want to be.”

WCHS is only one school in a growing number of schools who have left class rank behind in favor of new systems. Despite this, there are still schools who utilize class rank for their own reasons. Some critics believe an exact class rank helps students more than it hurts. Betts refutes these claims.

“Many schools around the state and some in the county do not rank students. When you speak with the administration of those schools, they believe it is better for the students in their buildings, too. Giving a percent lets you know where you stand and keeps you aware of what you need to do to improve. By ranking the way we do, students are more likely to take courses that will be of interest to them or help them prepare for what to do after high school instead,” Betts said.

Another controversy around class rank is how it can make students look worse than they actually are, which can affect students’ ability to enter college, which can also lead to students feeling insecure and unhappy with their rank.

The Southern Online reports, “The rivalries that fuel the tension in accelerated classrooms are rooted in class ranking. The difference in GPAs between number two or number 15 can be as small as .01.”

Danielle Zink, a counselor at WCHS commented on how students are affected by class ranks.

“The intent is to encourage students to take courses that best fit their career interests, rather than trying to take as many weighted classes as possible to have the highest rank. Additionally, it helps eliminate unhealthy obsession/competition between students based on rank,” Zink said.

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