High Competition at CHS Is Detrimental to Student Growth


By , , and Sofia Williamson

You go out for dinner with friends but finds it difficult to enjoy yourself. You spend the whole time nibbling at your food and trying to stay active in conversation,but your mind wanders. All you can think about is how stressed you are for the pair of tests, four quizzes and summative writing you have at school tomorrow. Sound familiar?

CHS ranked number three on The Washington Post’s Most Challenging High Schools in the D.C. area list, following Washington International, a private school, and Poolesville High School. Nationally, The Washington Post ranked CHS number 88. This is good for the student body, right? Not exactly.

While this ranking may serve as justification for CHS’ high graduation rate and the rigor of study in the school, we must ask ourselves if the consequences of this rigor are really worth it.

According to U.S. News and World report, CHS is the 94th best high school in the nation and the second best in the state, behind only Whitman. Although CHS is down from being ranked 69th nationally last year, it still boasts the same expectations of high academic achievements. Students continuously feel overwhelming pressure and stress throughout their four years at CHS.

According to head of counseling Robin Moore, CHS rigor comes from the extensive AP courses it offers and the drive of students to take those classes. So who is to blame for this drive to have a difficult course load? It can be argued that CHS’ culture is naturally inclined towards high competition and academic accomplishment given its location.

According to CNN Money, Potomac, MD has the highest median household income of any other city in the country, with the median income being 48% higher than the average income for all Americans. With parents making more money, it can be assumed that most received an excellent education, and therefore will wish the same for their children.

So, added pressure may stem from parents. Parents who put academic pressure on their children must realize the results of their actions and understand that with no limitations on rigorous classes students at CHS are allowed to take, it is easy to become too overwhelmed, which can lead to lower grades in the most difficult courses.

It also does not determine their child’s success as an adult.

Last year, CHS sent 19 students to Ivy League schools, a notable accomplishment considering that the acceptance rates of Ivy League schools range from just 5-15 percent. However, attending an Ivy League school does not determine future success.

According to a March 2011, US News article, a study by economists Alan Krueger at Princeton University and Stacy Dale at Mathematica Policy Research concluded that Ivy League students did not enjoy an advantage in salaries as compared to those who attended less selective or public schools. A student could either spend more time stressing over a perfect GPA to attend an Ivy League, or enjoy their four years in high school without the added stress, and attend a good public or private school.

When students are left to manage hours of schoolwork every night, extracurriculars and a social life, it becomes difficult to enjoy everyday activities not related to school like family dinners.

Comparatively, Whitman ranked 12th in the D.C. area, yet remains more than 30 spots higher than CHS in the U.S News and World Report list of top schools.

This goes to show that the most challenging and high-pressure academics do not make make for the most educated and academically achieving school.

Sure, it can be very rewarding and beneficial in the long run to attend one of the best high schools in America, but when its students are miserable, mental health outweighs academic achievement.

CHS is full of bright, determined students, but these top rankings are putting unnecessary pressure on them to outperform their peers.

Let’s put the rankings aside. If everyone at CHS acted as if it were a normal high school rather than a demanding institution, students will remember the place where they spent four years in a positive way. They will remember it as a place where they learned from supportive teachers and were surrounded by cooperative students, not a pressure cooker in which they were given piles of work every night and faced competition from their peers.