Gadfly has generally supported experiments that pay students for good attendance or test scores. And Baltimore's "Stocks in the Future," which gives middle school students up to $80 to invest in the stock market and lets them keep their earnings, is a model of what smart pay-pupils-for-performance programs should look like. It not only dangles dollars in front of youngsters, but it uses the money to spur interest in the material being taught--those who spend more time studying the ins and outs of Wall Street will learn more and have a better shot at making more money, too. What's key is that Baltimore is not inserting, willy-nilly, a monetary incentive where one may be inappropriate, or where it may undermine other positive incentives that already exist. Some ill-conceived student-pay programs do those things. But by tying dollars to economics education, or by, for example, rewarding improved English test scores with free books, schools use incentives wisely. Seems like an idea worth putting stock in.
"Schools Use Cash as an Incentive to Boost Attendance and Scores," by Sean J. Miller, Christian Science Monitor, April 29, 2008