Celebrate The Students, Not Their Class Rank

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Lincoln East has always had a strong academic record. This year, East had so many students with a GPA of at least 3.5 that the administration had to plan 3 separate days to recognize high-achieving students. The growing number of students on honor roll is due to both the growing population of the school and the increase in students who put in the extra effort it takes to attain high grades. The Freshman and Sophomore classes had their honors convocation in the South gym for the first time in school history.

“Both students and staff work hard here, to maximize learning,” said Principal Sue Cassata. “The numbers of students who are academically successful, with using honor roll as a measuring stick, speaks to how hard they work to show mastery of the content. I would like to be able to give students a moment of saying, ‘Here I am and here is what I accomplished.’ I think that signifies how proud we are for their work.”

In past years, the top 3% of each class sat on risers on the stage to be noted for their exceptional work as students at the top of their class. This year, the top 3% were announced individually and asked to stand from their seats. However, the top 3% of freshmen were not recognized because the district is no longer recognizing class rank. The Class of 2021 will be the first to use a new system that recognizes high academic achievement without comparing students to one another.

The elimination of class rank was a decision made with more than a year of evaluation. A large committee of staff from all 6 high schools, the district office, and representatives from higher education institutions — mainly UNL and Nebraska Wesleyan — looked at trend data, student feedback, and the relevance of class rank in higher education. They studied negative effects that come from ranking such as unhealthy competition or the lack of course diversity and exploration due to students making course choices solely based on its effect on their class rank as opposed to their interests.

“I think that the competition that I have witnessed that comes from those trying to be in the  top 3% hasn’t always brought out characteristics in our students,” said Cassata. “The competition has been the motivation instead of the learning, which seems to be counter to what we do in education.”

Another reason LPS has decided to get rid of class rank is the fact that universities and colleges don’t typically use class rank as an indicator anymore. They are more likely to look at GPA, standardized test scores, and actual courses of study when admitting students. They have developed a variety of ways to look at a student’s aptitude for being successful in college, looking at factors such as extracurricular involvement, participation in student organizations, or community service.  Many districts in Nebraska have never had class rank and others that have had it have done away with ranking students.

The committee looked at the transferability of class rank. “You might be first in your class at East, but that’s in a different pool of students than you might be in at a Class D high school where you had 25 kids in your class,” said Dr. Jane Stavem, Associate Superintendent for Insturction of LPS. “The transferability of what your class rank means doesn’t really exist. There’s kind of a false comparison of student achievement. The relevance of that compared to other districts and other places is kind of lost at this point.”

LPS wants to recognize more students for their high achievement, so they are implementing a system that uses the Laude (Latin) Model. It will recognize more students for high academic honors while maintaining rigorous courses. Summa Cum Laude or “with highest distinction” will be used to describe students with a GPA of 4.250 and above. Magna Cum Laude or “with great distinction” will be for a GPA of 4.000 to 4.249 and Cum Laude or “with distinction” will be for GPAs of 3.750 to 3.999. More information can be found on the new system on LPS Board Policy 6570 Regulation 2.

“We hope to still see kids who pursue a rigorous course of study,” said Stavem. “We hope to see more kids taking higher level courses because they’re less concerned about class rank and that we have more kids who are exposed to the content of the course because they’re willing to get a lower grade in a higher level course whereas, in the past, they may not have even attempted it because they didn’t want it to affect their class rank. We want students to adopt the mindset that they are in competition with themselves to do their best without being worried about where everyone stands in relationship to them.”