DC schools: Paid for Grades

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced plans yesterday to boost dismal achievement at half the city’s middle schools by offering students an unusual incentive: cash.

Ok, what?! I’m all for “radical intervention” as Rhee says, but paying students for attendance, manners, grades–how is that helping anything?

I suppose one could say that it’s a bit like the working world, I mean I know some people around my office who I think are just paid to show up. But we’re paid to perform now because we were motivated enough to learn what we needed to know when we were younger. It wasn’t fun by any means, but I don’t think having someone pay me would have helped. The most “payment” we got were local businesses that might give us stuff for a good report card. I fondly remember Showbiz Pizza giving out tokens, Six Flags giving park passes, other businesses, usually food, sweets and games oriented places participated. And there were students that got an allowance bonus for good grades, of course, but that was up to the parents to decide.

Besides people today, regardless of what the school stats say, are smart. If you give them a system with incentives, they will find a way to game that system. This will no longer become payment for learning, it will be payment for producing results. And that’s not the same thing.

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7 Responses

  1. kyle says:

    I was rather angry when I read this item this morning. This is a bad idea from the start. This world is run by fools.

  2. Lolypup says:

    I have mixed feelings on this issue. The positive and what many tend to overlook is that these type of “cash” programs are usually targeted towards underprivileged students, who do not have the support, motivation or resources from their families & communities to succeed as most of us did when we were in school.

    How can you do well in school when you go home to poverty, drugs and violence. These programs target middle schoolers as this is the most crucial time to catch kids before its too late, to find a way to motivate them and to encourage them. Paying kids to do well in school isnt new, parents have been doing it for generations, perhaps by allowing the school districts to step in with a cash motivation, we can prevent drop outs and future generations of children who will need a “cash” incentives to do well in school.

    All ideas have their pro’s and con’s but we cant just dismiss this idea because it offends some inane sense of propriety we have in regards to what we might consider a “hand out” to kids we think dont care and are just lazy in todays great society.

    We often forget that in DC, the majority of our students are underprivileged and they need, no they deserve equal footing to an education, even if it requires us to pay them, far less than what they would make on the street selling their next dime bag, or just taking what they need/want from an unsuspecting tourist.

  3. brian says:

    @Lolypup: I would like to be less cynical about the program and I know that it has good intentions, but I can’t help but wonder what sort of life-precedent it sets for the kids that will “benefit” from it.

    I don’t see it as a hand out, but I do see it as being paid to show up. And as someone that has had to deal with people who think they should get paid just for filling their seat, it rubs me the wrong way.

    In school I had an English teacher who told us, “You can easily memorize stuff, I’m here to make sure you learn it.” And when I got to college, a HBCU by the way, and saw that incoming freshmen were still taking basic reading and math classes, I had to wonder if they were being taught anything at all, or just passed along to the next grade. Maybe offering a monetary incentive will help DC schools look better in the eyes of society, but I’m hesitant to think that it will be conducive to learning.

  4. pyack says:

    You can’t replace ambition and self respect with cash payments. DC students are already the second most expensive in the country at 16K/yr. and look at the results. If parents don’t care and kids don’t care and the community doesn’t care, no amount of money will matter. And that’s that.

  5. Danno says:

    Seems an insane idea to me. I think we’re heading the same way over here… kids are already given an allowance by the government to stay on at school post 16. As a teacher the phrase you were told, ““You can easily memorize stuff, I’m here to make sure you learn it.”, rings so so true. Paying kids will mean all they actually get out of it is a bit of cash and onto the next stage in education without any real knowledge with which to face the world later on. Its a quick fix and gives the outside world an impression some learning has gone on, through at set of end of year statistics which mean very little but simply serve to please politicians. The issue ive discovered, and it seems a universal one, is making kids believe in their own abilities, and encourage them to pursuit their talents. In my opinion money will divert them from this, and provide a “quick fix” to a bigger problem.

  6. Road says:

    This kind of pisses me off. I think I’d be less upset if the money went into a fund that they could use for further education.

  7. shindo says:

    Is there a way to teach these kids about the seriousness of what they’re dealing with beyond throwing money at them? I always thought grades were some strange pseudo-economic construct. The students attend, they learn, and the teacher pays them in grades. The teacher rates then and then pays them what they are worth. If they frak up, then bye-bye university.

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