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Viewpoint: The end of the ranking system: A graduate's perspective

A recent 833 school district change will implement a removal of class rankings at East Ridge, Park and Woodbury high schools. The purpose for this change is to prevent the ranking system from negatively affecting any senior high school student during the college admission process. In the scenario that the rank would benefit the student, he or she is allowed to request for the ranking to be displayed.

While an article about the disadvantages of this change has been written in last week's publication by parent Qin Tang, I feel compelled as a prior student of this district to write a piece explaining how this change is a huge mistake. I graduated from the class of 2012 at East Ridge high school as the valedictorian. Some may say I am biased toward this districtwide change for the ranking system was a benefit to me in my college admission process. But in all seriousness, ranks are simply a part of life and by eradicating them at the high school level, the South Washington County district fails to prepare students properly for the real world.

Ranks provide competition and competition fosters hard working students. The United States, more than most countries, is a meritocracy society. Companies routinely discard their poor performing employees and reward their high performing employees. By erasing the ranking system at the high school level, the competitive environment is lost and as a result, students will have less of an incentive to work hard. From a student's perspective, I can attest that the ranking system is a huge motivator. No other mark is presented during our four years indicating how we match up to our peers. When the ranks were published after a completed trimester, I would often hear students expressing their goals to beat a certain threshold in the ranks or bring up their GPA. How could a district ever think that erasing the ranking system would benefit students when in truth, it serves as an incentive in their academics?

Ranks are everywhere, from the work force to activities and sports. I'm confused as to why we haven't decided to eradicate ranks in sports. Isn't the player who does not win a medal hurt by the ranking system? Shouldn't we eradicate the ranking system in sports? No. Because playing a sport is a competition to identify the best and to rank appropriately after first place. Without ranks in sports, what would be the ultimate motivator to win? To keep a similar competitive mindset amongst the student body in the classroom, the rank system should not be eradicated in our high schools.

Frankly speaking, while I was shocked of this change, it didn't quite surprise me. Attending the new high school in the district was an excitement, but the excitement quickly plummeted when I realized this new opportunity to create a strong and accomplished school was not being met. In my three years of attendance at East Ridge, I walked through the activities entrance, passing by the glass cases displaying the athletic trophies every morning. Kudos to anyone who was displayed; I was proud to attend a school that had a strong athletic facility. But, where was the glass case for the academic achievers? There was one such case on the other end of the school, but it wasn't as grand and displayed pictures of students from small trimester achievements. Never was there a glass case created to feature the best ranked in academics and even after my visit to the high school a few weeks ago, I still have yet to see an academic glass case. It seems the priorities of this district are biased toward anything but the academics.

Bhattacharya, a 2012 graduate of East Ridge High School, attends Columbia University in New York