Taking away titles


High achieving students are up in arms about the new class rank policy. They claim that it hurts their opportunity to get into a major university.

The junior class meeting began with the same spiel that is given to every student at the beginning of every school year at New Berlin West, that is, until the principle, John Budish, stated that, “starting with the graduating class of 2015 West will be discontinuing class rank.” Apparently the decision had been made by a 2010-2011 committee whose purpose was to review all grading within the district. This committee recommended to the School Board that it stop providing specific class rank to students and get rid of the titles of valedictorian and salutorian.

Fearing that a lack of class rank would minimize the recognition of high achieving students and would hurt their chances of being accepted to prestigious schools, I questioned why this decision was made. According to Budish, “Districts around the county have stopped offering class rank in order to avoid an automatic categorization that may prevent some good students who have low class ranks from being accepted to colleges.” By removing this “artificial measure” Budish believes that colleges will be forced to look at other aspects of the student, which will most likely mean that, “more students will be admitted to higher caliber Universities.”

It is evident that the primary reason for the removal class rank is the belief that it will be beneficial for a large group of students. Like any good principle, Budish wants, “the most students possible to achieve.” However, those that would have been within the top 10percentile may be out of luck. When asked what will be put in place for the motivation of these high achieving students, Budish responded that, “the students at the top are not motivated by class rank, but instead have internal motivation.” In other words, the high achievers do not need to be rewarded or acknowledged for their hard work because they will work hard no matter what. This seems to be the justification for the school striping students of their well-deserved titles of Valedictorian and Salutorian.

However, Budish did mention that there will still be some recognition for academic excellence. The new system will be known as the Cum Laude. This will then be broken down into three separate awards based upon the students GPA and the number of advanced placement courses completed. Of these levels, the highest possible to achieve is that of a Summa Cum Laude in which a student has a GPA of 4.0 or better and a minimum of 5 AP classes. The most prominent issue with this is that students that have a GPA higher than a 4.0 and have taken more than 5 AP classes will not be distinguishable from those that just barely meet the requirements.

Although the school will not legally be allowed to disclose information about class rank to any student, there are several exceptions in which the school will provide class rank. Specifically, if a scholarship or college application requires class rank, the school will be able to mail it in a sealed envelope. In applications where class rank is not required, the school is allowed to give both the GPA of the student applying and the highest GPA in his/her graduation class to act as some sort of comparison.

Although the teachers will not be directly affected by this new policy, they still have opinions regarding the issue. James Braun, a Spanish teacher at NBW, sees both sides of the argument. However, he expresses that, “high school is supposed to prepare students for the real world, and in the real world there is going to be competition in almost every aspect.” He also mentions that, “there is competition in athletics, so why not have competition in academics? High achieving students deserve a similar type of praise to those that athletes receive.” History teacher Jason Johnston agrees with Braun in the aspect that, “competition in grades is good because it is present everywhere in the world that students are heading into.” On the other hand, Johnston has seen some students put under so much pressure that they are willing to, “lie, cheat, and steal for their class rank. If there was a way to make the system less cutthroat, it would be very advantageous.”

As with every system, this new policy is going to have flaws. The question is whether or not this new way of thinking will be more or less beneficial than the old. The only way to truly find out is through experience, and as luck would have it, my graduating class gets to be the guinea pigs.