Local News

Principal: Class rankings create 'unnatural' competition

Posted May 21, 2009 12:52 p.m. EDT

— When Meg Barrow applied to Harvard University, she told them her GPA – a 4.0 – but there was one piece of information she couldn’t give them – her class ranking.

Raleigh Charter High School, where Barrows is a senior, has joined a growing number of schools that have stopped tracking class rankings.

“We feel like it creates an unnecessary and unnatural competition between and among students,” said Principal Thomas Humble. “We want the competition to be within the individual student.”

More than half of all high schools no longer report student rankings, according to a survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, which represents high school guidance counselors and college admissions officers.

Christoph Guttentag, with Duke University’s admissions office, said about half of the 24,000 applications the university has received this year did not include a class rank.

“These small differences in a grade here and a grade there aren’t really that important when it comes to understanding how good a student is,” Guttentag said.

Some admissions officers say that, in a class of 500, it doesn’t matter whether a students is fifth or 15th.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, one-third of this year's applicants did not report a class rank, according to UNC officials. While UNC and Duke said they prefer to know a student's class rank, they see it as only part of the story.

Guttentag said, if given the choice between two students – one with a rank 10 places higher and the other who is more involved in extracurricular activities and who participates in class – he’d pick the student with the lower grades.

“I have no qualms about taking the student whose grades are a little lower,” he said.

North Carolina requires public schools to put class rank on transcripts. Raleigh Charter High School bypasses that by blacking out that part of the document. The North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham is exempt from the law and does not track rankings.