The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

The Standard

The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

The Standard

Point // Counterpoint

Zack Longboy: When I transferred to ASL, grades, scores and all of the other measuring sticks which are used to quantify a student’s learning, were foreign to me. Granted I came from an extreme scenario, but I believe it would be incorrect to say that other students do not experience some of the same uncertainty with regards to how they stack up against their peers.

In an era where standardized testing scores can be bought with expensive tutoring and the case can be made that grades at our school are inflated, few trustworthy quantitative measures remain. That is why I am a proponent for instituting a class rank – not in the standard form that many public schools use – but a “rank” none-the-less.

In my proposed model, all students would be ranked into four ranking tiers each containing 25 percent of students in the grade. The nature of the grade and their relative GPAs would determine where the cutoff for each quarter exists in any given year but the end result would be the same.

Opponents of class rank will argue that, unless you are using a weighted GPA – a concept I would not support – the ranking system is flawed: Students in easier classes will rank higher. While this is a legitimate concern, there are other ways to solve this.

In order to account for course-load I propose a “strength-of-schedule” ranking – independent from the class rank. This would be a numerical ranking between one and five (beginning at one, another point is added for each AP or Honors course that student is enrolled in; for example a student taking two AP’s would have a ranking of three) would be added as a means to cross reference the class rank. While not factored into the class rank, by having this other measuring stick one could differentiate between say, two students in the top 25 percent, one with a course load rank of one and the other with a three.

In my model, a student would now have two new quantitative measurements on his or her profile. However, while usually class rank would add another component for college applications, in my proposed model where it is not an individual rank but a tiered one, students could choose whether or not to submit it in their application. I see the role of class rank as measure of personal feedback rather than a component of a finished product. Ultimately its purpose should be a lot like quarter grades in the way they would be used to give in-process feedback, without a sense of finality.

While the argument that class rank arouses unnecessary competition does hold some merit, I believe that at least some, healthy competition is invaluable for a students learning experience. Competition, it is a well known fact, drives people to perform better. Whether the class rank serves as a pat on the back to reward students who are doing well, or a wake-up call for students who are slipping, the most important role that the class rank will play, is as a comparative measure. At least some of the uncertainty about where a student stands or how a student stacks up to his or her peers will be eased. After all, we are not all the same student, with the same grades or the same course-loads so the sooner a student can realize where he or she is on the spectrum, the better.


Ian Scoville: If I had been asked to write this piece my freshman year, I probably would have written something similar to what Zack Longboy (’16) wrote. I found the idea of having to compete with my peers in a ranking system compelling; I wanted to be forced to do well, and to have a benchmark for measuring my success against others.

But that belief was short-lived. I have come to realize that a ranking system can do nothing but harm the learning experience of those students who are being ranked.

The main reason I disagree with a ranking system is because of the effect I believe it would have on our culture. I, and I believe most students, want to go to a school where learning is for learning’s sake and for enjoyment is our key objective. I also believe a ranking system would foster a culture of unhealthy competition. I do not want to be educated in an environment where I’m competing with my peers for who can climb higher up the ranking board; I want to go to a school where I can take a very challenging course and not be afraid of getting a bad grade. I want to be able to collaborate with my peers without a competitive air between us.

Most importantly, I want to learn for myself, not to compete with my peers. I don’t want to be doing well on an Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus AB test so I can climb five places up the ranking board. I want to study for the test so that I can develop valuable skills that I can use to make a meaningful difference in the world – that’s what education is all about. Education isn’t about competing for a number, it’s about improving.

And right now, that is largely the education I am receiving. Our school, for all the complaints about it being hypercompetitive – which it can be –, is uniquely collaborative and specially determined to help us learn everything we can. I believe a ranking system would do nothing but destroy that culture.

However, the main reason that I don’t support a ranking system is because I simply don’t think a ranking system actually works. For a ranking system to be an effective one, it has to be an accurate representation of how students compare with each other. But ranking systems – no matter how much one tries to fix them – will still always just be some simple form of a comparison of student’s academic performance. And that is a fundamentally flawed ranking system, because it misses the point of what an education – and excellent academic performance – means.

Modern education is about so much more than getting As in classes and scoring 2380s on SATs – it is about educating the entire student. Students learn and show off their knowledge and skills in Model United Nations or on the field just as much as they do in the science lab or the Harkness table. No matter how we try to fix rankings, whether it be accounting for things like course rigor or a student’s maximum potential ability, we would still only be ranking one part of education. Rankings would do nothing but become a false indicator of student intelligence and academic rigor.

A system that ignores the fact that students are singers, writers, politicians, jurists, and athletes is a system that belongs in our 1950’s education system, not our 2015 model of education.

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