SERENA LIN Editor in Chief
The Alhambra Unified School District (AUSD) announced on June 23 that, beginning with the graduating year of 2021, schools will no longer recognize a valedictorian or salutatorian. The decision was promptly met with a student-made Change.org petition to bring back class rankings. Despite this, the class rank should not be brought back. The new system is more equitable and celebrates students whose achievements are just as impressive as those who would have gotten top class ranks.
The first argument made by the petition is that removing class ranks for the class of 2021 and 2022 would be a waste of students’ time and effort since they have competed with their peers for more than half of their high school careers. However, the AUSD has already addressed this issue by introducing summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude as a metric for academic achievement; meaning with the highest distinction, with great distinction, and with distinction in Latin, respectively. The reason why the Latin honors are better is because rankings can overlook students whose GPA’s are only lower because of circumstances out of their control. For example, a student who could not get into a full AP class would automatically have a lower GPA than a student who was lucky enough to have that AP class. There is no way to determine whether or not a student without an AP class is less deserving of a high rank than a student who does. Latin distinctions, however, are forgiving enough to allow students to compete with each other on a more equitable basis.
The petition also raises the concern that the elimination of the class ranking system gives one less achievement to put on college applications, especially with the extraordinary limited circumstances that the pandemic has caused. In light of students’ situations, this argument is especially compelling. In order to address this, it must be pointed out that there is still an achievement to put on college applications. In fact, the new system would enable more students to have something to enhance their resume as the method of computing class rank causes students sharing the same rank to push back those behind them even if the difference in GPA is minuscule.
The final argument the petition makes for bringing back class ranks is that it would increase dependence on SAT/ACT scores, AP scores, and GPA. This is true in theory. It is also true that GPA is what class rank is based on and so the argument is self-defeating. As for standardized testing, the petition itself notes that SAT/ACT requirements have been waived. There can’t be undue dependence on SAT/ACT scores if the requirement for those tests no longer exists. By removing class ranks, in fact, students are more likely to push for the replacement of standardized testing with more cohesive tests and is another reason why class ranks should be removed.
The AUSD’s decision to use summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude in place of class ranking is a sound one. It benefits all students, including those with top ranks, and creates an educational environment that is more equitable. The new system does not take away opportunities, class rankings do.