Cash in your gold stars

Districts have long resisted plans to pay teachers based on their performance. So it's little surprise that Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer encountered flak when he proposed to pay students based on theirs. Fryer is pushing a student-pay pilot program for New York City that would give kids cash for test scores (at least $5 just for taking the city's mandatory exams, and as much as $25 in fourth grade and $50 in seventh grade for high-achievers). Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Klein are receptive to the idea but others aren't convinced. Maggie Siene, principal of Public School 150 in Tribeca, said, "It makes me really nervous. I suspect paying kids for achievement in any way tends not to work." Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution disagreed. Poor kids, he said, lack the motivating forces that push their better-off peers to succeed in school and thus "have a very hard time understanding that what they do today pays off decades from now." An experiment seems to be in order--with a really good evaluation attached. But may we suggest giving students Borders or Barnes & Noble gift cards for books rather than cold, hard cash?  If we're going to be paternalistic, we might as well go all the way.

"A Plan to Pay for Top Scores on Some Tests Gains Ground," by Julie Bosman, New York Times, June 9, 2007

"Money on the Mind," by Alexander Nazaryan, The New Republic Online, June 11, 2007

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