Op Ed: It is time to get rid of class rankings


Graphic by Michelle Yamamoto

Lincoln sophomore expresses her thoughts on how class ranks are outdated and need to be abolished.

Abby Yium

We are not numbers. And yet, every student at Lincoln High School has one. 

Students across the country are given a number, known as a class rank, which measures their GPA-based performance compared to their classmates. 

When students constantly compare themselves to each other, it enforces the idea that their worth is tied to their class rank in school. 

With our class ranks online, available to us day and night, and on every report card sent in the mail, it’s hard not to see ourselves in terms of competition: better than some students and worse than others.  

Ranking students does provide recognition for the highest GPAs, but it negatively affects the educational experience for those with lower GPAs. Even for those ranked highest, this competitive structure adds another layer of pressure for them to keep their status, which experts understand is harmful to teens. 

Researchers at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Math warn that youth at high achieving schools like Lincoln are more at risk for behavioral and mental health problems than the national average. 

Not only are class ranks unhealthy, but they ignore the fact that people excel and find passion in different aspects of life, not necessarily just by getting the best grades. With pressure to do well from parents, colleges and peers, some students purposefully choose to leave behind what they truly wish to do in exchange for a higher GPA. 

“A client of mine told me that taking music or journalism was out of the question because she couldn’t justify what it would do to her GPA. I can tell you there was a lot less joy in her curriculum,” said David Altshuler, an education consultant and expert of the college admission process, in an interview for the Washington Post. 

The pressure to conform to one path leads to burn-out and fatigue. Therefore, by the time some students reach college, they are unable to recognize what’s actually important to them. 

Alfie Kohn, an author and lecturer, is an avid supporter for the abolition of class rank and grades and has written hundreds of articles speaking out against our country’s obsession with test scores. He advocates for the removal of class ranks, beginning with small steps. 

“A high school might start by eliminating them for freshmen, giving students one more year to be able to focus on the learning itself. Or, at a minimum, they can eliminate the particularly noxious practice of ranking students against one another, which turns academics into a competitive sport and designates the victor as ‘valedictorian’” wrote Kohn on his website

While the long-standing tradition of class rank is still in use today, I urge Lincoln administration and educators to rid of class rankings and find other ways to motivate their students