Regarding the May 18 news article “Wake board votes to drop naming valedictorians”: The Wake County Public School System correctly acknowledged that academic competition can become unhealthy. Unfortunately, because it misunderstands the nature of the problem, its solution won’t solve anything. The problem is college admissions.
Students fight for class rank because colleges value class rank. And, thanks to grade weighting, students have a strong incentive to take advanced placement classes that do not really interest them instead of taking a non-AP class that might interest them.
Students might take AP psychology instead of, say, band, because AP psychology boosts their class rank more than band, improving their odds of getting into the most competitive schools.
The solution is to limit that incentive. If schools awarded a maximum of only five extra quality points every year, then students deciding between AP psychology or band might choose to broaden their horizons with band. (AP psychology would still be available if the student used his five points already, just on the normal four-point scale.)
The district’s decision to use Latin honors does not solve the problem, because the problem is jockeying for class rank.