CHRISTIANSBURG — Montgomery County Public Schools is doing away with a long-used class ranking system that includes the designations of valedictorian and salutatorian.

The school board voted 7-0 on Tuesday night to eliminate class ranks and instead employ a system that recognizes high-achieving students via three broad categories:

  • Distinguished scholar for earning a 4.0 GPA or higher.
  • Scholar for a 3.80 to 3.99 GPA.
  • Honor graduate for a 3.60 to 3.79 GPA.

The new system will begin with the class of 2019.

School district officials and board members pushed for the policy change as part of an effort to try to tame measures students may take to try to finish at or near the top of their class.

Those measures involve students stacking Advanced Placement and dual-enrollment credits to earn weighted A’s, which can boost GPAs over 4.0 and provide the fraction of the point needed to be ranked above other high-achieving students.

School officials also linked their willingness for the policy change to the diminishing importance of class rank by GPA in college admissions.

Only 9 percent of college admission counselors considered class rank to be of “considerable importance” in 2017, down from 42 percent in 1993, according to a widely distributed fact card from MCPS.

Board Vice Chairwoman Connie Froggatt said the exact class rank means little in the long run for students with already commendable GPAs and other academic achievements. She told other board members that many of those students are easily able to get accepted into good schools and find a good career later in life.

“Those kids are going to be successful,” Froggatt said.

While the board unanimously approved the new system, members still used part of Tuesday night to engage in some debate about the policy.

Board member Jamie Bond, who had some objections earlier this year, said the class ranks did allow students to stand out.

“I do believe there is a huge difference between a 4.0 and a 4.4,” she said before describing some aspects of class ranks as “a wow factor.”

“I don’t want to take away anything from anybody else … but like I said, there is a difference for that student who goes above and beyond every single day.”

Board member Mark Cherbaka had previously asked that the implementation of the new system be put off for at least one school year so as to not “pull the rug out” from under current students who have put in great effort into high GPAs. However, he told the board that he more recently realized that colleges will already be determining admissions on other factors.

Cherbaka also reiterated the need to calm some of the unreasonable measures some students take to finish at or near the top of their class.

“That competition for number one is exactly the problem we’re trying to solve,” he said.

School district officials have also said that they still intend to specifically recognize students who excel beyond their peers. They said they are simply doing away with a system that rewards students for tenths or hundredths of a point.

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