Tuesday, November 8, 2016

As Compared to What?

As Compared to what?

Let’s say you have a 3.9 grade point average and you are about to graduate from high school.  A 3.9 out of a possible 4 point should put you in a pretty good position for a high graduating class ranking and a leg up on your college admissions.  Well that all depends.  Suppose your parents were very concerned that you would get a good education.  So they really mortgaged themselves to buy a house in a great school district- all so you could go to a top notch public school.  It worked!   Your school is great.  The kids are all high achievers and you got a great education.   Now it is time to go to college.  You could certainly use some scholarship help and admission to a top flight college.  But wait, that smart strategy of your parents may well backfire.   Your 3.9 average is amazing; but it just turns out that a lot of other kids have high averages too.  Your graduating average may be carried to the second and third decimal point.  And now by perhaps a hundredth of a point, your class ranking has dropped to number 20 or even 25.  Forget a scholarship, you will be fortunate to be offered admission at some of the premier colleges.
Now let’s suppose another scenario.   Your parents can’t afford the high priced housing in the classy school district.  So you make do in a lesser academic environment.  In this example the you also earns a 3.9 grade point average.  But because this school does not have as many high achievers, your 3.9 will rank you right up there at the very top of your class.  This ranking puts you in a spot to not only gain admission but  perhaps get a scholarship even though your 3.9 was not earned in a more challenging academic environment. 
What is wrong with this picture?  A lot of high schools, particularly those in elite school districts are asking the question of whether or not announcing a student’s class ranking puts that student at a disadvantage against less competitive high schools.
In highly competitive high schools, students are unwilling to take harder courses so they will have a higher GPA.   Other schools have begun weighting grades in honors or advanced placement course so that a B in a physics class could count more than an A in chorus.  Consequently, students are not taking courses with lower point value. 
Colleges are concerned about too many high schools dropping class rankings because college rankings are often based on the number of students who enter as freshman and whoare in the top 10% of their graduating class. 

Somehow or other things have become very confused.  The notion that kids go to school to learn and to explore what interests them has been sacrificed to rankings, percentiles and how US News and World Reports on colleges.  Maybe we could skip not just class rankings but grades as well and concentrate on learning.  After all, in the end, just who are we comparing these kids to?

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