Six times during the school year, always to mixed emotions, is report card day. We receive a sheet of paper that holds our class averages, teachers’ comments, and overall GPA—a culmination of a marking period of dedication and struggle. In such a competitive environment, grades are incredibly important to most students, who always look for ways to do better in their classes. Class-wide GPA ranking, a common attribute at many other high schools, could provide a different analysis of their academic profile, but at uncertain cost to community.
Colleges want the best students, but are often unable to judge the rigor of courses in lesser-known schools. Class rank attempts to bridge the gap by allowing a relative comparison within schools. However, Stuyvesant’s admission criterion, the SHSAT, is designed such that incoming students are among the best in the city. In fact, Stuyvesant is popularly considered the flagship public high school in NYC. In turn, colleges have a rough idea of the number madness at Stuyvesant. Since most colleges already have a rough conversion of Stuyvesant GPA’s to academic potential, ranking can be seen as superfluous. “It doesn’t benefit anyone but colleges, US News, and other such publications,” sophomore Daniel Charnis said. “Ranking gives them one more variable to work with. Students have no net benefit.”
The implications hold that class rank in Stuyvesant would have only a nominal effect on college applications. “A large student body indicates that virtually every GPA is already represented. Ranking would merely be an extension of a student’s grade point average,” senior Mallory Miller said. “Moreover, ranking would underscore the minute differences in averages. Students may think: Every 0.1 more on my average brings me three ranks higher. This mindset could easily lead to more cheating.”
“It creates unfair pressure, especially on poor students, to do better when they’re already trying their best,” sophomore Iris Zhao said.
On the other hand, some students wouldn’t be opposed to more pressure. In “Don’t Take My Stress Away,” an article by Jack Cahn in The Spectator, Cahn writes, “I came to Stuyvesant to be sleep deprived, I came here to be pressured, I came here so that I would have enough work to keep me up throughout the night.” If rankings were to inspire additional pressure, some students would thrive in the revamped environment. He continues, “It is a shame that the school attempts to weaken the workload, competition, and pressure, the very aspects of Stuyvesant that are key contributors to our success as students and people.”
English teacher Emilio Nieves ranks his students on a classroom level, though he is against large-scale class rank. Nieves labeled class rank as “pressure without purpose,” but explained that it “is acceptable on a classroom basis because it has no effect on the school transcript,” he said. “It is a byproduct of the classroom grade point average. I use ranking for convenience and organization. Students can understand their performance relative to the class’s. It also eliminates any confusion when they get their report cards.”
Sophomore Derek Tsui made a similar argument, but unlike Nieves, Tsui is in favor of large-scale class rank. “Ranking should be implemented for students to see the specific level of improvement they need to aim for. The system should be student’s choice to maintain privacy,” he said. “A class rank system could also discourage cheating. People would likely be more focused on individual academic pursuits, and so, more reluctant to help others, especially those with a higher rank […] Most importantly, however, the students must understand that ranking or numbers do not define identity.”
Furthermore, class rank does not have to be competitive on a large scale. Instead, it can serve to commemorate academic achievement. Brooklyn Technical High School is a Specialized High School, with a student body comparable to Stuyvesant’s. Brooklyn Tech ranks and publishes the top ten seniors with the highest grade point averages. Subsequently, most of the grade is excluded and is unaffected by this list. “I wasn’t aware that [Brooklyn Tech] had any kind of ranking. It probably only matters to those ten kids,” Tech sophomore Rachel Gray said.
Class rank would likely instigate additional pressure to students in an already stressful environment. It could inspire students to achieve their full academic potential, or serve as a reminder that they will never be number one. Perhaps class rank would have a minuscule effect due to its similarity to GPA, though it is certain that if class rank were introduced, the majority of students and faculty would be opposed to it. In any case, our report card would hold one more item: a direct comparison between our peers and ourselves.