An Unhealthy Competition

Is class ranking causing an unnecessary level of pressure on an already high-achieving population of students? More importantly - why does ranking matter?


Photo by Alison Mckeough

Is class ranking one tradition PMHS would part with? Do the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to mental health?

Do you know your class rank? Students fill their schedules with AP classes and honors classes just to have a better class ranking. Most times, they aren’t even interested in the classes they decided to take all in benefit of raising their ranking. For many students, especially those in the top percentile, school has become a competition to beat out the next person in order to surpass them in ranking. This subliminal competition that students are facing is unhealthy.

Class ranking in high schools has been around for quite some time. This idea of having to be the top of your class is promoted by parents, teachers, and schools; there is an immense amount of pressure put on high school students due to this.

Some may argue that class ranks are rewarding and should not be eliminated as it determines the Valedictorian as well as the other positions. Students working to be in the top 10 and having their name called over the loudspeaker at the end of senior year is rewarding. They have worked hard and put in long hours to achieve the rank they finish with.

In “The case for abolishing class rank” by Valerie Strauss, it states, “When students are rated with letter or number grades, research shows they’re apt to think in a shallower fashion — and to lose interest in what they’re learning — as compared with students who aren’t graded at all.” Students want to be ‘the best’ so they push themselves to take classes that get them better grades with a higher ranking but stop caring about actually learning. Students copy work from each other or look up answers to maintain their good grades; this is a result of feeling pressured to be on the top of the class.

In this same article it also mentions the fact that in this, what they call, “vicious rivalry” many “overachievers battle it out over tiny differences in GPA…” Each student strives to have a higher ranking than the next person, this creates huge competition over the littlest differences of points which in turn stresses students out even more. In some cases, students feel as if their class rank is what defines them.

Many schools across the country have stopped ranking their students. For example, the Williamsville Central School District in New York has already eliminated class ranking. The article posted to the district site claims that nearly sixty percent of schools across the United States have stopped class rankings. The article also includes the fact that “students have reported elevated levels of anxiety and stress related to the positioning that occurs when calculating class rank.” There is an immense pressure to achieve the highest rank which results in increased stress levels and enrolling in classes with higher weighting to increase their rank.

Overall, class ranking has negative impacts on students; its stresses them out, increases anxiety, and causes unhealthy competition amongst their peers. Instead of choosing the Valedictorian based on ranking, schools should choose by the character of the student and their involvement in the community. Instead of focusing on ranks, we should be focusing on learning and getting a proper education that is beneficial to students. It’s time to alleviate the extra stress and abolish class ranking in every high school.