After reading the top ten profiles from the senior class, it is clear to me that each of these students would still make a top ten list based on any number of criteria, whether it be involvement in sports and clubs, leadership, community service, or character.
This competition for the highest GPA and to move up higher than the kid sitting next to you starts at the beginning of your high school career, but the rank is not revealed until the college application process begins.
As we all learn freshman year, our GPA, or grade point average, is determined and calculated by the grades a student receives in her classes. Higher GPAs normally go to the students who are enrolled in Honors or Advanced Placement classes, because those classes have more value on the GPA scale than the College Prep classes.
Is this fair though?
One indicator of your high school career that is heavily weighted and ranked ends up determining a large part of your admission into the college of your dreams. In fact, one could argue that GPA is the biggest part of what defines you as a student.
On the MHS website, the mission statement mentions that the goal of Malden High is to insure that a student grows academically, personally, and civically. But, the GPA is a representation of only one of these: academic growth. Shouldn’t a ranking system also take into account personal growth and civic responsibility?
How could the school even determine the value of these qualities that make up a well-rounded student?
What about all the rest of the items on your resume? What about holding a job for three years? What about volunteering at your local church or at a homeless shelter? What about the students going off to serve our country? What about being the president of a club or a class? What about being the captain of your team? What about having to help take care of your family financially and emotionally? What about running a newspaper? Should these things count as much as your grades in school?
The ranking system causes a great deal of competition among MHS students, and it goes without saying that this competitive attitude is present in hundreds of other high schools. Sometimes, a great deal competition is healthy for a student — it can sometimes motivate and inspire a student to perform well in her classes so she can raise her GPA. However, from personal experience, the number a student receives from her guidance counselor can also cause a lot of discouragement. Hearing “the rank,” despite how high or low it is, can really be detrimental to a student’s work ethic. She could feel discouraged and feel as if she is not smart enough or good enough when compared to her friends and classmates.
A student’s GPA could actually discourage her from taking a challenging course, even though she is interested in a certain subject; she may take classes that she perceives as easier because that is what she believes she is capable of doing, according to her GPA, or even to just avoid lowering her GPA. Shouldn’t students be pushed to “develop personal interests and goals within a course of study,” according to the MHS 21st Century Learning Expectations?
If we are going to continue to rank student achievement, we also need to remember that these ranks do not evaluate what a student does outside of the classroom.
As I learned in my AP Psychology class this year, there are multiple types of intelligences. What about the students who are musically apt and have strong Musical Intelligence? Perhaps they have mastered the acoustic guitar, however, they struggle with some of their academic school work. Or what about a student who can easily read other people’s emotions, and has a high level of Interpersonal Intelligence? There are also some people in the school who are defined leaders, a skill that not many people have. My point is simple: someone can be intelligent without having outstanding academic grades to support it. Some may even argue that some of these other intelligences, like creativity, personal, and leadership, are essential for success in college and the work force.
Again, not to take away from the success of the students in the top ten; there is no doubt in my mind that all these students would still be ranked in the top ten regardless of what criteria is used to rank them. Their success and achievement is not to be disregarded.
But our ranking system could be better, and it could evaluate a student’s achievement inside and outside the classroom. The most productive and ethical way of making the system more accurate, until we come up with a better one, is to abolish class rank entirely.
March 2013** Correction: Page 12 should say "Class of 2014 Presents..."**