By: Julia Moyer
Starting in the 2020-2021 school year, class rank will no longer be calculated and published according to Howard County Public School System’s policy 8020. This makes the Class of 2021 the first graduating class without rank on their transcripts. On behalf of HCPSS, Kami Wagner, Instructional Facilitator for School Counseling, said, “In talking with students across the county, there were clear connections between class rank and student stress levels.” she added that “while students also articulated that class rank can be a motivator, students were more in support of removal rather than support for continuing to rank.”
Jessica Williamson, a junior at Hammond, opposes HCPSS’ decision. “I think it’s unfair to the kids who have worked really hard since freshman year in order to be recognized at the end of high school. Now they won’t be after all of that, so I feel like it was kind of a waste and a slap in the face for them.” Williamson seems to have a common view among some upperclassmen who have gone through high school so far thinking they would receive a rank.
However, Freshman Riley Woodward, says “I feel like it doesn’t really matter to me since I just got here,” but does sympathize with upperclassmen, saying “I feel like I could get good grades but not enough to be valedictorian… I feel bad for people who are actually trying”
In the decision making process, HCPSS consulted students at the Howard County Association of Student Councils (HCASC) in addition to students and parents on the policy committee.
In addition to the parent and student input, HCPSS consulted with colleges, including University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University, who verified that abolishing class rank was the best move they could make for their student’s mental health. “Since Class rank was originally created in HCPSS to meet the needs of college admissions and it is no longer required nor helpful for most colleges, the committee felt strongly that the pros for keeping it were outnumbered and outweighed by the cons,” Wagner said on behalf of HCPSS.
Because of the current coronavirus pandemic, SAT and ACT testing has been canceled. While there are hopes that the SAT can restart administration in August, only time will tell if that will happen. Meanwhile, many colleges and universities across the country have taken the opportunity to go test optional for students applying to enroll in fall 2021, or have gone completely test optional in general. This makes an SAT or ACT score report not required as part of the college application.
Another factor to consider is absence of extracurricular activities and summer programs. The pandemic has severely affected the ability to have club meetings, participate in extracurricular activities, and hold school events. It also pretty much canceled the spring sports season and has the potential to impact athletics and other activities in the coming school year. Some students also planned to have internships, take classes, or work a job over the summer. These plans may be canceled or altered in some way by the pandemic.
With this being the reality in addition to the potential absence of standardized test scores, students who are looking to stand out on their college application should look for other ways to differentiate themselves from other applicants. This could include a variety of things including volunteering in the community or writing some outstanding essays.