The life of a high schooler typically entails long school days, part-time jobs, Advanced Placement classes, SAT scores and competing for the best Grade Point Average. For local students, this experience is about to change.
An unfair advantage
Virginia Beach City Public Schools has announced its discontinuation of class ranks, starting with the class of 2022.
“There are a number of things that led to [the change],” said Daniel Keever, Senior Executive Director of High School Education in Virginia Beach. “One of the items was students that spoke to the board about their frustration, frustrated with their rank because of academy students.”
Academies in the area such as Ocean Lakes High School’s Math and Science Academy and Princess Anne High School’s International Baccalaureate Academy provide many weighted classes that general students do not have access to.
“I think that although it is good to give students a reason to strive to be the best, it also seems a little odd and sad to rank students,” said Ocean Lakes senior Kaitlyn Lyons.
In addition to this, ranking students became unfair, because academy students had an advantage over general students at receiving a higher GPA and therefore a higher class rank.
“At the same time, principals were talking about how class ranks weren’t really necessary,” said Keever. “Students were taking classes just for additional courses.”
Many students have said that they felt obligated to take Advanced Placement courses to get a higher GPA and better chance of getting into the college of their choice.
“I became involved because, being an assistant principal here for a long time and now the principal, I’ve seen how stressful the competition for GPA and class rank can become,” said Dr. Claire LeBlanc, principal of Ocean Lakes High School. “And in some cases, I think it’s very unhealthy.”
As colleges lessen the importance of class ranks, schools are following suit.
“We looked at how colleges were screening students,” said Keever. “They’re leaning away from using class ranks as a primary discriminator when it comes to the application process.”
In taking the pressure off, the Fine Arts programs may potentially benefit as well.
“I like competition, but competition at a certain level or with certain motivation I do think can be a negative thing,” said LeBlanc. “I hope we kind of take some of the pressure off kids of feeling like they have to take these crazy schedules in order to increase their GPA. I hope it frees kids up to take classes that they’re actually interested in, and not something that will simply give them more weight.”
The new system
The Latin Honors process is a non-competitive system that allows for individual success without having to beat others.
“It’s the best thing VB ever did,” said Creeds Principal Casey Conger. “Most larger school districts have already moved to the college Cum Laude designation.”
Everybody over a 3.0 is an honors graduate and earns recognition bands. The first recognition band is earned at a 3.5, then the second at a 3.75, and the third as a 4.0.
“I hope that it places more of an emphasis on the learning and less on taking as many weighted courses as possible,” said Keever. “My hope is that it really provides incentive and recognition for outstanding academic accomplishments.”
Shelly Slocum is a department head for the Daily Runner.