High school class rankings: What was your experience like? What is your opinion?

Although this discussion could be more broadly spun out to include class rankings in toto, I’ve never experienced them on the college level & so I don’t know how they would be applicable in a post-HS academic setting.

What was your experience like with high school class rankings? In retrospect, how do you feel about them?

I have a younger sibling in HS right now, and her ranking places her within the top 1% of her class. Now, even though my own experiences with these rankings were similar, I still feel altogether uncomfortable with the entire number scheme that US high schools apply to their students (along with the elitist titles of Valedictorian & Salutatorian). Frankly, I just think that it introduces teenagers to the cutthroat rat race of academia (& life more broadly) in an entirely unnecessary way, and I wouldn’t be sad to see more schools move away from class rankings completely.

That said, I know a ton of students - and their parents - love class rankings and the competition that goes along with them, so I’d be interested in gauging the SDMB’s opinion on this topic.

My high school didn’t do that.

I’m guessing it probably had something to do with the school serving a significantly lower socio-economic area than any other school in the county, and having two magnet programs (a Math & Science program and a Communication Arts program), which would have resulted in a huge, embarrassingly obvious disparity between the local, [del]black and latino[/del] [del]disadvantaged[/del] ethnically-diverse kids and the bused-in, white and Asian ones.

We didn’t know our rankings until senior year as we began applying to colleges. I think it would have been weird to discuss rankings early on. My high school was high achieving, but in a collaborative, fun way. I suspect that sense of “we’re all in this together” camaraderie might have been spoiled if we knew about ranking from early on.

My HS back in the 70’s didn’t do class rankings - pretty good school in the NYC suburbs. In retrospect that seems like a good idea. The valedictorian was my best friend, and I had no idea until the actual graduation ceremony.

I have mixed feelings; on one hand, class rankings are a good way to determine the relative academic standings of students within a given class at a school.

However, they’re kind of unfortunate in that class ranking doesn’t mean anything outside of your particular class and school. Someone is top 5% at some academically wretched school may be the equivalent of someone in the top 33% at a very academically rigorous school.

Beyond that, I think it probably ought to be calculated based on the last 2 years alone. I don’t think that some 14 year old kid’s first or second year adjustment to high school ought to be counted against them when they’re 18 and trying to get into college. But if you f**k up your first year or so in high school, it potentially can screw you for the rest of your life, even if you don’t do anything spectacularly bad like getting pregnant/getting someone pregnant, spending time in jail, etc…

I also wonder if maybe it should be calculated in terms of tiers rather than an individual ranking, and including some sort of difficulty score and extracurricular score; I knew too many people in school who had no extracurriculars, no lives, and who sandbagged by taking easy classes just to increase their class rankings, in effect gaming the system in a sense. There should be a way to penalize that in favor of being a more well-rounded student and/or taking a tougher class schedule, and I think broad tiers with other things besides just GPA calculated in might do that.

I mean, which kid is a better product of the school? The kid with a 4.2 who eats, sleeps, and breathes school, and whose sole goal is to make straight As, or the kid who has a 3.7 who, is involved in extracurriculars (honor society, debate, student government, sports, what have you)? To me, it’s obviously the second kid.

Unless you’re at the very top and giving the speach, it doesn’t matter one bit. I can’t even remember mine and no one I ever worked for ever asked.

AP and honors courses were absolutely weighted heavier in my school (mid-80s). A B in an honor’s class was worth more than a higher grade in a non-honors class, just for the reasons you said.

My school didn’t do that. Sure, we knew which people were “better students” in general terms and who got the best grades in specific courses, but there was no ranking. There is a national prize for students with perfect grades, but all people see is who has won it; I had a hard time figuring out my position in my college class, don’t ask me what it was in HS.

To me it seems as unfair as the concept of “school failure” currently being applied by Spanish politicians, under which anybody who takes more than the theoretical time to finish any given course of study is a “failure”. By that standard, any of my schoolmates who had a year of horrid health are “failures”, including some who once recovered went on to have good grades, go to college (and finish it), etc. One of them started an editorial house and after being bought out with the condition (set by the buyer) that he’d continue managing his creations, is the editor of the magazine line of the biggest periodicals house in the country: some failure! And at the college level, some degrees (such as engineering ones since forever, and double degrees among the newer ones) are famously full of “failures”.

What do you call the person who graduated medical school last? Doctor.

Like Ivory Tower, we didn’t know what our exact ranking was until the end of senior year. But every year, the top 10% of the class was honored with a special banquet and a little trophy.

I think it makes more sense to honor everyone who makes a 3.5 GPA or greater, rather than praising the top ten percent. Both are arbitrary measures of success, but the top ten percent is even moreso. I had classmates who were always right on the edge of making the cut-off. But alas, SOMEONE has to be in the 89 percentile. I guess if you don’t make it to the banquet freshmen year, you can hope for a smarty pants above you to get a bad case of mono your sophomore year so you can go. At least if the cut-off was 3.5 GPA, someone who is 3.44 has a goal to shoot for that’s within their control.

However, the bigger world doesn’t operate on “sense” and “fairness”. I mean, why is it fair that a whiz kid who doesn’t have to study gets honored for making a 3.5 GPA, while the hard-working kid who studies day and night and only makes a 3.0 GPA gets ignored? In the real world, awesomeness is what is rewarded, whether you worked hard for it or not. That may not be fair. But that’s how it is. If kids are too precious to learn this lesson in high school, when are they going to learn it? When it’s their first day on the job and no one gives them a scooby snack just for showing up on time?

I never quite understood the problem with class rankings. Most schools “reward” the best player on their various athletic teams with some kind of MVPP. Is it so wrong to reward the top student in various classes or a top student over-all? In all the discussions I’ve seen as to why class rankings should not be done, I’ve never seen a similar argument that MVP awards in schools create problems.

We ranked, but didn’t weight. So every year you’d get someone in the top ten who had taken Phy Ed electives and wood shop and study hall, only the minimum Math, English and Science.

Even weighting, there are so many ways the system can be unfair - where #3 is beat by #2 because #3’s parents got a divorce in ninth grade and they got an A- in German. Or because #2 had the “easy” Trig teacher and #3 had the Trig teacher whose difficult tests were impossible to finish and check in an hour.

There were a couple of (cruel) kids who gave me a hard time for being awarded “top ten percent” because I had easier classes than they did. I had AP and honors classes on my transcript, but I didn’t take AP calculus like they did. I only made it up to trig because I started my math series with algebra rather than geometry. I also started off with physical science my freshmen year, rather than biology like all the brainiac kids were supposed to. So from their vantage point, I was a slacker loser kid trying to usurp their limelight and rob them their National Honor Society pins.

But I didn’t have a choice in what classes I was assigned to. The register was the one who decided I’d be better off in “easy” classes my freshman year. As if to prove him wrong, I worked hard to get As in everything (didn’t have straight As, but I generally did well in all of my classes). At any time someone could have decided that a mistake had been made and placed me up into more advanced coursework. But they didn’t. So if the system failed me in that way, then why shouldn’t I have been able to subvert the system during awards ceremony time? I wish I had been able to tell those whiny kids this, rather do what I did and feel ashamed.

At my school, ranking was based on GPA. GPA’s were weighted differently if you took AP classes versus non-AP classes. Why we give heavier weights only to AP classes, I don’t understand. Honors classes are harder than regular classes, which are harder than remedial classes. But those classes were weighted the same at my school. Further evidence of “unfairness”. But I don’t think it’s worth worrying about. You celebrate what you can and hope everyone understands.

I was 40th out of 400 until, in our final semester, one girl got pregnant and dropped out. And thus, I did not graduate in the top 10% of my class.

I finished my Ph.D. first, though.

Neither high school I attended did rankings that I was aware of. I probably wouldn’t have cared much. I knew I was smarter than 90-95% of my classmates, but mediocre grades would have kept my “official” ranking lower.

I find it . . . disturbing. On the one hand, I believe in recognizing academic achievement, which is the idea behind it. On the other, it amplifies jealousy, stress, and just general cattiness. If there’s one thing high school girls do not need more of, it’s cattiness. In my school, there’s a hallway where all the pictures of past valedictorians are hung up - they’re all wearing weird, plastic expressions. Whenever I walk down it, the Kinks’s “Celluloid Heroes” starts playing in my head. Whatever its intentions, it solidifies the belief that your GPA represents your worth as a human being.

Some kids are also academic late bloomers - they get into that “its doesn’t matter” rut where they are smart enough to do it, but don’t bother to turn in homework. So their Freshman grades - maybe their Sophomore grades - suck. Then they discover with a minimum of work, they can get As, but its too late for them to get a decent ranking.

My son ended up misplaced regarding math - his test scores and grades were certainly high enough to put him in advanced math, but he wasn’t placed there (and no one can tell us why other than ‘it was an error’). And it was a year before the situation was corrected - and then he struggled because he had to catch up.

In our senior year, near to graduation, we were told our class rankings. If you were in the top 20%, at graduation you got to wear a set of tassels around your shoulders, in the school colors.

I remember my rank because of the way the numbers fell out. I was 72nd out of 472.

So what do we want to teach kids? That it doesn’t matter what you do with your talents and abilities, you will be rewarded either way?

Should we not cheer for the winning football team because it teaches kids that winning a game represents your worth as a human being?

I’m the namby-bambiest person I know, and even I am sick of the “everyone gets a trophy” nonsense. Not because I think it promotes mediocrity, but it spares kids from experiencing pain that is completely unavoidable in life. Jealousy, envy, resentment, bittnerness, shame…a person is GOING to go through these emotions at least once in their life. And they aren’t pointless emotions; they can be excellent motivators. Childhood is an excellent time to learn how to cope with these feelings because parents are there to remind them that no, no one metric represents their worth as an individual no matter what the evil portraits on the wall may want them to believe.

If kids wait till adulthood to learn this lesson, they won’t learn it at all. They’ll just turn out to be the people who think that how much money one makes or how many girls/guys one sleeps represents one’s worth.

I went to 3 different high schools. One was a Catholic school. That school posted everyone’s class rank after the release of report cards, which IIRC was 4 times per year. Everyone knew where everyone ranked. That seems completely unnecessary, but “shame” is part of the whole Catholic thing, I guess.

The school I graduated from did not give out class rank, but we did have a valedictorian and a salutatorian.

At my high school, the top 10 in the grade and the top 1 student were identified in Grades 9-12. I was in the top 10 each year; I guess it was a nice minor ego boost but I don’t think I would have been particularly ashamed if I hadn’t made the cut.