T.C. Williams High School is considering abolishing student rankings, citing data that it can foster “unhealthy competition” among students.
Principal Suzanne Maxey told the school board last month that student rankings don’t accurately measure student potential and takes things into account that students cannot control - such as what their peers are doing.
“We believe having seen it, it fosters unhealthy competition among kids,” Maxey said, noting that rankings between students can fall to 100th of a point.
“The only two people who win are the [valedictorian] and [salutorian] while others have made tremendous strides,” she said, adding that it's important to encourage excellence and think about more than just the top one and two.
Additionally, Maxey argued that top-performing students often shy away from courses such as band or chorus because those classes are not weighted and so could negatively affect their Grade Point Average, or GPA.
A T.C. Williams student liaison who attended the Sept. 27 School Board meeting agreed that currently high ranking T.C. students are discouraged from taking art classes because of this issue.
Fairfax and Montgomery counties don’t rank students and neither does Arlington’s Yorktown High School, according to the presentation. Neighbors Loudoun and Prince William counties as well as Arlington’s Wakefield and Washington-Lee high schools do rank.
Preliminary research by T.C. staff presented at the meeting show that about 50 percent of high schools do not rank students.
A survey of the colleges most attended by T.C. students said it would not put students at a disadvantage if T.C. did not rank students, although some admissions offices may want to know generally where students rank in their graduating class.
School Board Chairman Sheryl Gorsuch pointed out that most colleges are looking at the top 10 percent of high school graduates, not specific rankings.
A policy change would be at the discretion of the Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent and Maxey said she just wants to begin the discussion and seek more input.