The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Paws for Thoughts: Bring back class rankings!


To the disillusioned directors of Hollywood, here’s a reality TV show plot just waiting to be born at WCHS: announce on the first day of junior year that 1) class rankings have been reinstated and 2) all students will have to claw their way up from ground zero in the final year before they are required to submit that fateful number into Common App. Bring your cameras, plant them around the school and watch with buckets of popcorn and diabolical glee as the games begin!

This is (partially) a joke, but the debate behind bringing back class rankings is all too real. Although the Montgomery County Board of Education voted in 2018 to abolish this system, the closer I get to the end of the first half of my senior year and the deeper I reflect backwards, the more dissonant my opinions on the subject have become. Is it so bad to bring back publicly ranking the top students in each grade? My answer is no; this has been wrongly villainized.

Just look around us at the seemingly endless grade inflation, lax deadlines and student freedom that have taken over our school and county in the past few years in the name of improving the student experience. I used to be a part of the herd mentality of students joyfully rejoicing in how much easier it had become to be a “good” and “decorated” student, but I have slowly come to see it differently.

My eureka moment found me as I was frantically flipping through old photo albums and diaries in search of inspiration for my college essays. Cringes of deep embarrassment towards middle school Ha-Yeon with her gelled-back hair were the main thing I got out of my trip down memory lane. Still, as I pored over the diary entries I had meticulously kept from fourth to eighth grade, I came to a startling realization: perhaps my motivation and work habits had devolved, not evolved, as I progressed through high school. Why?

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To put it bluntly, there is simply no reason to push myself more than the bare minimum I need to. On the all-Honors-and-AP-classes track I and a fraction of my class sprint along, almost everyone has a similar weighted GPA; we know how to get A’s in the classes we take, and that nearly formulaic and repetitive process has erased the joy of the struggle of a challenging course. Even if we walk sedately, it has been taught to us that as long as we walk together, we can count on new policies to move the finish line closer to us. If the result is going to be the same for a student who puts in the least amount of effort necessary to obtain an A and a student who pours their soul into learning, who in their right stressed/tired/senioritis-afflicted mind would choose to be the latter? This mentality and reality is more harmful to students than bringing back class rankings would be.

For class ranks to have the desired effect, it must go hand-in-hand with adding -/+s to final letter grades. If an A- adds less to your weighted GPA than an A+ does, which determines whether your name is on that list of top 25 students posted on the school’s website or on the office door, trying out different possible minimum scores to calculate what would keep you at an 89.5% in the class would become a relic of an anti-learning past. Even if it is challenging and stressful, it will undoubtedly verify the cliche phrase “No pain, no gain.”

Going back to my wrinkled diaries with their glittery covers, what made me begin to question were the pages and pages of detailed study plans and analyses of different studying methods, from Anki to Cornell note-taking, I had drawn out. That fire to find the best and most effective way to learn so that I could absorb as much information as possible, that intellectual curiosity, has become fainter in an environment that encourages me to blow it out. No longer can that be.

When I look around at my friends and classmates, I am often struck by how incredibly smart they are (and then the imposter syndrome hits again). That is why it hurts to see the blanket of the 89.5% mentality silently extinguishing their fires. Throwing what Jeremy said in last month’s column about not adding gas to the fire that is the competitive spirit of WCHS students out the window, I say the opposite: pour that fuel!

As the timeless and inimitable Katy Perry once said, “You just gotta ignite the light/And let it shine/Just own the night/Like the Fourth of July.” To break down the language as we did for “Hamlet”, the fuel (class rankings) must ignite the light (our students) in order for them to shine (not become mindless clones).

P.S. Back to you, Jeremy 🙂

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About the Contributor
Ha-Yeon Jeon, Print Editor-in-Chief
Ha-Yeon Jeon is a senior at WCHS and the Editor-in-Chief for the 2023-2024 school year. When not writing for the Observer, she loves reading trashy romance novels, visiting museums, and going on sunset walks. More than anything, she loves Trader Joe’s!

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