It's no secret that Gadfly and his friends harbor some doubts about the programs now popping up in various cities that pay students for improved attendance, behavior, and grades. But now that these initiatives are in motion, we might as well learn something from them. Last week, DC students received their first checks and the results were mixed. Some kids reported being more motivated to participate in class, show up on time, and pull up their grades. Others' aspirations were less high-minded. "I'm going to the mall," declared one seventh grade girl. "What d'you get? What d'you get?" whooped others, gleefully waving their checks, as they bounded out of schoolhouse doors. Teachers reported that the most obvious change so far is a decline in tardiness. But not everyone is convinced. Diane Ravitch notes that students in other countries make costly sacrifices to attend school; can the future really belong to those that must be "cajoled and bribed" to do that which is in their best interest-learn? But perhaps these cash incentives aren't that different from the car-and-Hawaiian-vacation rewards of wealthier suburban students, argues Richard Daley, Mayor of Chicago. Some of these kids have "never seen a $10 or $20 bill," he reasons. Mayor Daley, with all due respect, you need a better sound bite than that. Meanwhile, we're waiting for this "Show me the money" initiative to show us some data.
"We Shouldn't Pay Kids to Learn," by Diane Ravitch, Forbes.com, October 17, 2008
"Delighted - or Deflated - by Dollars," by Bill Turque and N.C. Aizenman, Washington Post, October 18, 2008
"Daley: Why can't kids get paid for good grades?," by Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun Times, October 18, 2008