US schools experiment with paying students

Discussion in 'Education' started by Shogun, Jun 17, 2008.

  1. Shogun
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    WASHINGTON: Friday is payday at KIPP DC: KEY Academy, and some sixth-grade girls gather at the makeshift school store trying to decide how to spend their hard-earned money.

    They received paychecks for behaving well, doing their homework or making academic gains. The money is pretend. But it can be used at the store for genuine items such as pens capped with fluffy feathers, pencil cases shaped like animals and colorful erasers.

    Schools, under pressure to boost student achievement, are offering incentives — field trips and cash, for example — to motivate students. Some educators praise the idea as a way to motivate poor learners, but others worry it could wind up leaving students with less incentive to learn if the money for such programs dries up.

    At KEY Academy, a publicly funded, nontraditional school serving low-income, minority students in the U.S. capital, Cherise Johnson Wallace proudly clutched a pencil case she bought at the school store. She was glad to have the trinket, but even happier about what it represented.

    "It shows how I work very hard to earn good grades," she said, flashing a smile as she rattled off the subjects in which she earned top grades.

    That kind of pride is what supporters of rewards programs point to. They say the prizes motivate youngsters at first, but that the children eventually form good study habits and become interested in succeeding regardless of whether rewards are on the line.

    The KEY Academy principal, Sarah Hayes, is a believer.

    The academy is among the city's top-performing schools, as judged by test scores. "I think a lot of that is tied back to our incentives program because it reinforces to the students that our expectations of time on task are serious and that you get rewarded for them," Hayes said.

    Studies into the effects of school-based rewards programs are limited. But research by an independent think tank at Stanford University indicated they can raise scores. A separate study examining schools in Ohio that paid students for passing state tests also showed score gains after the incentive program was enacted.

    In New York, about 5,500 students can earn money for getting good test scores. The program is open to fourth-graders, who can earn up to $250 a year, and seventh-graders, who can end the year with $500 in the bank.

    "We'll soon give out over $1 million to fourth- and seventh-graders this year," said Roland Fryer, a Harvard University economist leading the experiment. He said he is happy with the results so far.

    Queen Makkada, president of the parents' association at a school participating in the program, said the fourth- and seventh-graders seem to be working harder. She dismissed those who say these kind of approaches amounts to bribery.

    "What is the difference between this and giving children an allowance as an incentive for doing their responsibilities?" she said, adding that many parents in her neighborhood cannot afford to give youngsters an allowance. "This program allowed our children to experience what life is like when you have more to work with."

    Some question the long-term impact of rewards programs.

    Edward Deci, a psychology professor at the University of Rochester in New York and an expert on motivation, said rewards can persuade children to work harder to boost tests scores. But he said that effect probably would be short-lived.

    "Will their motivation to be doing their school work or learning be positively impacted by that once the rewards stop? I think the answer to that is pretty clearly no," Deci said.

    He also said there is evidence that once a reward is taken away, people become even less motivated than they were before the experiment began. He said that is true regardless of the reward's value.

    He said schools must make learning interesting, so children want to participate and do well.

    Fryer said more research is needed looking specifically at the effect of incentives in poor urban schools.

    He said it is so much more difficult for fourth-graders in those communities to see how education will pay off years down the road. "I just think we don't make any other kids in any other neighborhoods make that type of calculation," he said.

    Rewarding students is not new. Putting gold stars on test papers and throwing pizza parties for high achievers have been around for ages. But the new programs are more systematic. They are often available on a school-wide basis or throughout certain grades rather than just doled out by select teachers, many times with their own money.

    At KEY Academy, said Hayes, "You're not the teacher that has to go to the 7-Eleven to buy the bubble gum to give to the kids on Friday."

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    US schools experiment with paying students - International Herald Tribune
     
  2. editec
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    editec Mr. Forgot-it-All

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    Sylvan Learning Centers have been using this incentive system with their clients for least two decades that I'm aware of.

    It works remarkably well there.

    Of course Sylvans have a three to one student teacher ratio, prescriptive diagnostic lesson plans specifically designed for each student, and fairly motivated students and parents, too.

    Still, that's promising news.
     
  3. Shogun
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    ive been a big fan of positive reinforcement for a while. Somewhere in the backlog of these forums is a thread of mine about paying high school kids cash for their academic effort in order to help them understand what the world will be asking of them after graduation.
     
  4. editec
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    editec Mr. Forgot-it-All

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    WE make the kids go through a completely social/fascist society from 5 through 18, and then wonder why they're confused by the work world?
     
  5. BrianH
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    BrianH Senior Member

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    I think positive reinforcement is great, and I think the System that this particular school has set up is not entirely bad considering the money is not real money. I do, however, disagree with over reinforcing. The problem you get when you start paying kids for grades, it's something that they associate with grades and well-doing for the rest of their lives. They develop a "what's in it for me" mentality and won't do anything unless they'll get some kind of reward for it. I see this now in our school district. Many of the kids get excessive rewards at the elementary level, so at the high school level, they're always expecting something, and alot of the times, they won't do what you ask until you bribe them with some kind of reward. Rewards aren't bad, but students need to learn to respect and value education because it's an education. They need to be raised to actually value their learning instead of being bribed by rewards. Don't get me wrong, it actually works when it comes to achieving good grades, because what kid wouldn't want to get paid for good grades? The problem, is that schools are held hostage by funders based on grades, so some schools will do anything to get better grades, even if it means bribing students. What they don't realize, is that students will also do anything to get better grades to get paid, like cheating.

    I think rewards can be good if applied in the right way.
     
  6. Shogun
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    what working American doesn't ask "whats in it for me"? We assume that kids just "should" want to learn and put an effort into their work but this isn't 1920 where kids are either in the fields or part of the blessed chosen white collars to receive an education. further, money is no longer something that kids are unfamiliar with. 50 years ago father may have known best and had the walet but now kids HAVE experience with money and know what its for to its full capacity. I would suggest that paying kids a graded wage based on the result of their effort, a percentage of the current minimum wage even, would do more to increase effort in school than assuming kids have the mindset of their grandpas about education.

    You are not going to instill some "value" in learning without something to reinforce the behaviour. Telling pavlovs dog to drool didn't work like the meat powder did. Telling kids that they should Value learning doesn't work in a culture that has decided that every kid will be educated. Further, id suggest that it is IMPERATIVE to mold kids to fully understand the bargain we expect from them after they graduate; that they sink or swim according to the payoffs of their own effort. Again, what adult who works doesn't ask whats in it for them during the interview? Likewise, I just dont see a worthwhile reason to assume kids should be grateful for an education since it was rarer to get one during their grandfathers generation than it is during THEIR OWN generation.

    remember: public education is about the kids.. not the schools.
     
  7. BrianH
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    BrianH Senior Member

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    I agree to a degree. And you're right, most of us already do ask "what's in it for us." So if it's so natural to do so, why do we need to reinforce that in the public school system. No sense in prodding a horse that's already running right? What I feel that we're doing, is fueling this attitude in the U.S. that we won't work for cheap, therefore openning the door for these millions of immigrant workers that are doing jobs that Americans won't do. If these kids are learning that they'll get paid for everything they do, that's what they'll expect. Which, you're right, we already do this. We want to get paid for our time, but it's not something that was reinforced when I was a kid. IMO it's a natural development that most people experience. When you get into the working world, you make sure you get paid for your work.

    As far as a Pavlov, I agree. But if you can classically condition dogs to start drooling when they hear a bell, could you not classically condition kids to stimulate in the presence of education? Why could you not also go the other way and condition your kids to value education and learn without a thought of "payback" I'm not disagreeing with you, but when it comes to education, I'm a bit of an idealist....:redface:
     
  8. Shogun
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    im not arguing that this is "natural" so much as a reflection of the society that they are born into. a Century ago kids had a much different culture to grow up in than we have today.

    Sure, kids can be stumulated to learn.. BUT, that stimulation will ahve to relfect what has current value: money rather than the the idea that learning has value in a system that educates everyone.


    For instance, the Book-it program trades books read for pizza. I remember this program from the 80s and it had a great impact on my current lust for books.


    Pizza Hut BOOK IT! Reading Incentive Programs
     
  9. BrianH
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    BrianH Senior Member

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    Exactly, it just saddens me that the "value" is not education itself, but money.* Unfortunately, education (in this country) is equated to being a successful money-maker.* That's (in part) a problem with our education system, it's what has bread (IMO) the cheating atmosphere in today's school.* Kids do what it takes to pass because they want to make alot of money.* And they know if they don't, they'll be digging ditches for 5.15 an hour.* They may become a electroic engineer, but cheated their way through school to get there because the money is good.* I agree with you 100%, but just irritated at the "values".
     
  10. Shogun
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    hehe.. right on, brother.. Are you a teacher?
     

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