On Thursday, officials at Blue Mountain School District reversed a decision that said graduating seniors couldn’t wear a sash over their ceremony gown at Friday’s ceremony indicating which branch of the military in which they’re enlisting.
After a lot of public backlash fueled by an article appearing in the Republican Herald newspaper on Thursday morning, the school said kids could now wear those sashes on their graduation gown.
You likely saw someone post their reaction to the original decision on social media and had an opinion about it.
But that is not the most concerning decision recently made at Blue Mountain School District, specifically related to recent and soon-to-be graduates of the school. And this decision really flew under the radar at the end of 2020.
According to an earlier report in the Republican Herald, the school board at Blue Mountain also voted to get rid of the class rank system used in grades 9-12.
That means no valedictorian and salutatorian.
Part of the reasoning for eliminating the class ranks for high school students, according to the sources quoted in this report, was the pandemic and students not being on a “level playing field” regarding attending virtual school.
“Some grades could have been compromised,” board member Herman Fligge is quoted as saying.
That’s not a terrible reason for ditching the traditional valedictorian/salutatorian titles for a year but this is not a temporary decision. Now, Blue Mountain ranks (but doesn’t rank) its students using a percentile scale. Then, students are grouped in various levels of cum laude.
But that wasn’t the only reason Blue Mountain decided to ditch class ranks. The other reason is probably what you’ve guessed – it wasn’t fair.
Blue Mountain’s decision isn’t exactly new. Schools across the country that have ditched the class rank system suggest that 60% of high schools in America have already done what Blue Mountain just did.
Those same schools argue that the class rank system is unfair and does more harm than good. They say the difference between the valedictorian and salutatorian and a large portion of a class is just a percentage point or two.
At Williamsville Central High School in New York, they say “a student with a 95% grade point average is not even ranked in the top 25 percent.”
And another argument against class rank is that it pits students against each other and causes unnecessary stress on them. They say they get obsessed with their GPA.
Counter Argument to Eliminating Class Rank
All the arguments against class rank could be arguments for it.
First of all, doing something because other people are doing it isn’t a valid, logical reason for doing it.
Secondly, and more directly to Blue Mountain’s points for eliminating the class rank, is that if class rank is affected negatively by students taking some electives like art classes, then change the system to weight these classes higher. Just don’t make those classes so easy that you’re giving out too many As.
And that’s the point a lot of schools which have ditched class rank say … well, too many students are really close to being valedictorian but they’re just a fraction short of the top. Well, maybe it’s just too easy to get As.
Blue Mountain basically experienced that in its first year without ranks. Its new system grouped graduates by:
- summa cum laude
- magna cum laude
- cum laude
And of all the graduates to achieve those ranks, by far the most (30, according to the Republican Herald) got the highest honor, summa cum laude. They say some students can be overlooked by colleges because they didn’t achieve a level like Top 10 in a class but if a college is using that as a measure on whether or not to admit a student, what would they think of a student from a school that doesn’t even rank its students?
And what would that hypothetical college think if a student came from a school that handed out the rank of summa cum laude so leisurely?
Finally, if you’re a school and worried about students competing to outdo each other by getting better grades, you could definitely have worse problems. And wouldn’t it be the job of a school to help the student or two who gets a little too obsessive over the competition of class rank not be so obsessive.
Competition is healthy. Students who’ve worked hard to achieve those ranks of valedictorian and salutatorian deserve to be rewarded.
And if schools are going to brag about getting students ready for the real world that’s right in front of them, there’s no better lesson they can learn that, as Norm Peterson once said, “It’s a dog eat dog world and I’m wearing Milkbone underwear.”
There’s no sense in filling graduates’ heads with the notion that participation trophies are real.