Monday, June 11, 2007

Cash for Grades

Since my daughter started high school, I've paid her for grades each term. The system works like this; an A gets her a $50 credit, a B is neutral, a C gets her a $50 debit. We don't even discuss anything below that, but in theory it would offset all credits for the term. The results have been more than satisfactory; her GPA is well over 4.0 when you take into account Advanced Placement classes. Even unweighted, here GPA is over 3.5. And that is a significant improvement over middle school where she routinely brought home mostly Bs mixed in with a couple Cs each term. I know, I know; I didn't really have anything to complain about with her performance. She had a choice of three fine magnet schools. But I wanted to see if I could improve the performance through economic incentives. While she disagrees with me, I think it has had an impact.

Now, a Harvard economist is trying to start the same experiment in some public schools:

Roland G. Fryer, a 30-year-old Harvard economist known for his study of racial inequality in schools, is back in New York to again promote a big idea: Pay students cash for high scores on standardized tests and their performance might improve. And he has captured the attention of Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Those against it have a familiar complaint that I've heard:

But the idea is controversial. Many educators maintain, among other objections, that children have to learn for the love of it, not for cash.

The way I look at it, my daughter's job is to attend school and learn. The problem is that the payoff for that is so far in the future that it isn't much of an incentive. So I filled that gap and gave her some more immediate incentives.

It'll be interesting to see if this is adopted and if it works. I suspect that those paying will find that it costs them a lot, but that they will enjoy it as much as I have.

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