Academic prizes and honors in high school can create healthy competition and bring about higher self-esteem for the winners. The actual value of these prizes and honors may vary according to how they are valued by the student body. Some honors may be associated with “Geeks” or some other undervalued portion of the student body. Winning such an honor might simply confirm your Geek-hood rather than bring any true recognition to you.
The types and number of prizes and honors should be restricted. The idea that everyone is a winner is nice but it becomes meaningless for a student who is trying to distinguish herself. Make sure that these honors mean something and are respected by the students.
On the other hand, prizes and honors can be a distraction and unnecessarily set some students aside from others. This is why pass and no-pass is sometimes a good way to grade in order to prevent this kind of artificial hierarchy. Honors and prizes and even good grades may help you to get into college, but they won’t determine what kind of person you will be or how successful you will be. Look at Dick Cheney, who flunked out of Yale twice.
Students need feedback so they know how they’re doing but that feedback doesn’t have to necessarily come in the form of honors and prizes. The students who win these honors and prizes tend to be the ones who are interested in pursuing them, not necessarily the best students. Evaluation is important in high school but prizes and honors don’t necessarily add a lot to that.