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When counselor Clete Gualteri first began his career at Jamesville-DeWitt High School 22 years ago, he and the other counselors established a pivotal precedent that has defined the academic atmosphere of our school ever since.
The school came to the agreement that it was in the best interests of the students to eliminate class rankings from J-DHS. “It was a very difficult decision that I think ultimately we feel really good about,” says Mr. Gualteri.
At that time, the counselors and administration took an extensive look on how to best position J-DHS students for acceptance into college. “We surveyed many colleges about if we should continue to rank students,” says Mr. Gualteri. The counselors found that withholding class rankings from colleges did not impact a student’s chances of being accepted to school. More than that, they discovered that by including class rankings, they were actually harming a student’s odds of receiving a scholarship.
And today, other schools are finally starting to catch on to what J-DHS chose to do over two decades ago. The National Association for College Admission Counseling reports that over half of American high schools no longer report class rankings.
But with college admissions taking an increasingly large role in the lives of J-D students, many feel it would be advantageous to bring back the class rankings that counselors and administrators speak so adamantly about avoiding.
Class rankings give college admissions officers another data point when comparing students from different schools, since class rigor and grade point averages can be so skewed from school to school.
Junior Marcus Johnson is aware that rankings may put added stress on students, yet he still maintains that J-DHS should have class rankings, as a “competition system that will push students to work harder in school.” “It may put stress on students, but I think it’s a good type of stress that reminds students of why they are at school, and that is to learn,” says Johnson.
“Obviously, college admissions are important to students here at J-D, and I think to best suit the goals of those students, we should have class rankings,” adds Johnson.
However, students and faculty members are overwhelmingly against bringing back class rankings. J-DHS is “already very competitive as it is,” says senior Julia Vasquez. “Class rankings would just create an ultra-competitive atmosphere that is already present in J-D and doesn’t need to be amplified any more,” she says.
Junior Zion Alex says class rankings would put “too much pressure on students,” and she is against the belief that grades would improve with class rankings. “There’s only a small number of kids that would actually study harder to get their grades up and be higher in their class ranking. But most people don’t care about the competition, so it wouldn’t push them any harder in school,” says Alex.
Class rankings would also create a dilemma for students when it comes to choosing courses. Students would opt to enroll in classes that would be “easy As” over challenging courses that they may be interested in, says junior Nico Modesti. “Students would be less likely to take a class they are interested in if they knew it was a difficult course that would bring down their grades,” he says.
Principal Paul Gasparini would never consider bringing class rankings back to J-DHS. “It becomes an unhealthy focus on competition and ranking that undermines the spirit here at J-D,” says Principal Gasparini.
Despite the advantages that class rankings can bring to the college admissions process, counselor Denise Becher insists that she is content with keeping J-DHS’s protocol how it is. Although J-DHS doesn’t rank students, counselors and colleges still have access to class distribution charts, which lists the number of students that fall between certain ranges of GPAs. “We do talk to many college representatives, and they’ve never told us we should begin to use rankings,” says Ms. Becher.
In the school’s communication with colleges and universities, counselors and administrators have found that class rankings may actually be detrimental to a student’s chance of acceptance at a school. Because J-D has so many high-achieving students, a student with a 94 average may fall out of the top quarter of his or her class, and for scholarships or acceptance to a school, that may diminish their chances. “We’ve found in our conversations with colleges and universitities that not having the ranking ends up benefitting the most of our kids,” says Principal Gasparini.
But for the small number of students each year that apply to Ivy League or other elite schools, J-D’s lack of class rankings hasn’t been beneficial. “Students in the top five or 10 in their class, who are typically the kids applying to top-level colleges, don’t get the advantage of being able to say that they are ranked first or second in their class,” says Johnson. When it comes to the schools with acceptance rates in the single digits, that could mean the difference between being accepted or denied, says Johnson.
There has been an ultra-competitive environment created by the frenzy over college admissions, with an extreme emphasis on taking the most Advanced Placement classes, having the best SAT scores, being the most involved, or receiving the highest grades. It has been an “unhealthy” trend that puts an exorbitant amount of stress on students, says Vasquez. “Other high schools often look to us as a school that has really thought these issues through and many schools try to emulate what we’re doing here at J-D in terms of class rankings. And I think we’re doing the best thing for our students in our decision not to include class rankings,” says Mr. Gualteri.