High School Rankings

In high schools from Massachusetts to California, teachers, administrators, and students are realizing that dropping the practice of ranking seniors by their grades is a good idea. It's a healthy trend that should be encouraged.

The problem: Students can be rejected from institutions of higher learning and lose scholarships, solely because they fail to rank in the top 10 percent of their graduating classes. Grade inflation is another trend that shows little sign of abatement. More and more seniors are winding up in the upper tiers of their classes, rendering their grades ever less meaningful.

One not atypical example: In 1999, 8 percent of Oakwood High School (which has dropped rankings) seniors in Dayton, Ohio, received a 4.0 or higher. One-third of the graduating class had a 3.6 or better.

First and foremost, grade-obsessing students miss the point of a true educational experience - working with, and understanding, ideas.

Second, dropping rankings helps reduce what's become an unhealthy competition that pits schools and students against one another in a race more focused on getting A's than on learning.

Further, while colleges presumably could have a more difficult time assessing students without a high school ranking, most look at grades, along with SAT and ACT scores; the type of courses taken, such as advanced placement; and extracurricular activity. Hundreds of colleges no longer require SAT or ACT scores, and admissions officers generally have a working understanding of which schools provide more thorough preparation for university coursework and can afford to ignore high school standings.

A fundamental rethinking of the value of individual letter grades should add to the broader nationwide conversation over what achievement, talent, and genius really mean.

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