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Should Students Be Paid for Good Grades?

Posted by gradefund on January 15, 2009

Should Students Be Paid for Good Grades?

By Laura Fitzpatrick Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009,8599,1871528,00.html


Back in the day, a good report card earned you a parental pat on the back, but now it could be money in your pocket. Experiments with cash incentives for students have been catching on in public-school districts across the country, and so has the debate over whether they are a brilliant tool for hard-to-motivate students or bribery that will destroy any chance of fostering a love of learning. Either way, a rigorous new study — one of relatively few on such pay-for-performance programs — found that the programs get results: cash incentives help low-income students stay in school and get better grades. (See TIME’s special report on paying for college.)

According to a study released today by the social-policy research group MDRC, a nonpartisan organization perhaps best known for evaluating state welfare-to-work programs, cash incentives combined with counseling offered “real hope” to low-income and nontraditional students at two Louisiana community colleges. The program for low-income parents, funded by the Louisiana Department of Social Services and the Louisiana Workforce Commission, was simple: enroll in college at least half-time, maintain at least a C average and earn $1,000 a semester for up to two terms. Participants, who were randomly selected, were 30% more likely to register for a second semester than were students who were not offered the supplemental financial aid. And the participants who were first offered cash incentives in spring 2004 — and thus whose progress was tracked for longer than that of subsequent groups before Hurricane Katrina abruptly forced researchers to suspend the survey for several months in August 2005 — were also more likely than their peers to be enrolled in college a year after they had finished the two-term program. (Read “Putting College Tuition on Plastic.”)

Students offered cash incentives in the Louisiana program didn’t just enroll in more classes; they earned more credits and were more likely to attain a C average than were nonparticipants. And they showed psychological benefits too, reporting more positive feelings about themselves and their abilities to accomplish their goals for the future. “It’s not very often that you see effects of this magnitude for anything that we test,” notes Thomas Brock, MDRC’s director for young adults and postsecondary-education policy.

Although U.S. college enrollment has climbed, college completion rates have not. Only a third of students who enroll in community colleges — which educate nearly half the undergraduates in the U.S. — get a degree within six years. Hence the interest in this study among such philanthropic powerhouses as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which helped fund the MDRC study. (MDRC, by the way, was created in 1974 by the Ford Foundation and a group of federal agencies; originally named the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, it now goes only by the abbreviation.)

Given that the follow-up study of the program was disrupted as the schools struggled to rebuild enrollment and facilities in the wake of Katrina, it’s difficult to draw any long-term conclusions about the effects that cash incentives will have on community-college students. However, there could soon be more data to parse: with a grant from the Gates Foundation, MDRC plans to test cash incentives at community and state colleges in California, New Mexico, New York and Ohio.

Despite the study’s impressive, albeit short-term results, some critics in higher education are concerned that cash incentives will encourage students to start taking easier courses to ensure they’ll do well enough to pocket the money. “Everyone knows what the gut classes are when you’re in college,” notes Kirabo Jackson, an assistant professor of labor economics at Cornell who has studied cash incentives for high school students. “By rewarding people for a GPA, you’re actually giving them an impetus to take an easier route through college.” Other critics note that students’ internal drive to learn may be sapped as they focus on getting an external reward.

But those involved with the study note that particularly in this economy, cash incentives could help part-time students devote more hours to their studies. Faced with soaring bills for tuition, books and housing, many college students need a job just to get by. In the Louisiana program, all the participants were low-income parents, three-quarters of whom were unmarried or living without a partner. “We’re talking about adults who have quite a number of other responsibilities,” says Brock. “When you’re talking about minors who are required by law to be in school, that’s a different situation.”

Arnel Cosey, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and provost for the City Park Campus at New Orleans’ Delgado Community College, one of two schools in the study, says she understands why some people are concerned that cash incentives are nothing more than bribery. “But on the other hand, I think because I am involved with these students daily, I’m not sure that I’m opposed to bribing,” she says. “If that’s what we need to do for these people to reach these goals, which ultimately will lead to them having a better life, I wish I had more money to give.”

Besides, as Cosey adds, if all goes well, students will be getting cash incentives for their work soon after graduating — in the form of a paycheck. “Most of us wouldn’t turn up at work every day if we weren’t getting a check,” she says. “What’s wrong with starting the payment a little early?”


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Our opinion on education incentives: Cash for grades? An odd idea whose time may have come.

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

Our opinion on education incentives: Cash for grades? An odd idea whose time may have come.

Rewards for low-income students could level the playing field.

Prepare yourself to express moral outrage: When some students go back to school this year, they will get paid for improving their attendance, grades or test scores.

At first glance, even second glance, this seems like a terrible idea. Motives to learn should be pure and intrinsic. And if learning for the sake of learning doesn’t click, the correlation between education and income ought to be sufficient motivation. Won’t paying for grades inevitably lead to kids demanding money for, say, taking out the garbage?

Perhaps. But a careful look at the new pay plans suggests that in the right circumstances, they’re not so crazy after all.

For one thing, the experiments are financed with private — not taxpayer — money. For another, the schools where these programs are about to unfold are located in minority neighborhoods where 90% of the kids live in poverty and test scores lag far behind, such as New York’s South Bronx.

Lots of middle- and upper-income parents reward their kids for getting good grades with cash or a trip to a favorite restaurant. Those same kids also can find around them ample evidence that education pays. Their older siblings, cousins or neighbors head off to college and land good jobs.

In the poorest neighborhoods, kids see more destructive role models, and their parents lack the financial means to reward effort in school. Seen that way, offering cash for improved test scores is an attempt to replicate incentives proven to work in wealthier areas.

For the students, the cash rewards represent something more than just money. At Amphitheater High School in Tucson, where most of the students are poor and Hispanic, some students shed tears when they learned they had been selected to be part of a cash-for-grades experiment, says superintendent Vicki Balentine. It was the first time they had received a message that the outside world actually cared how they did.

At the moment, only a handful of places are trying cash-for-performance. The largest experiment, involving 70 schools in New York City’s poorest neighborhoods, starts next month. Fourth-graders who score perfectly on state exams will get $25; lower scores earn less. The cash rewards double for seventh-graders.

How the programs are structured will be as important as the monetary rewards.

For one thing, they should focus on more than just showing up. The Tucson experiment requires perfect attendance to win $25 a week, but it also requires C-averages or better and no discipline referrals. Students making the honor roll at the end of the semester can earn $100 bonuses.

Both the New York and Tucson programs have control groups of students not receiving cash rewards. Tracking both groups will show whether the experiments have short-term and long-term benefits.

And in neighborhoods where students can get rolled for lunch money, it’s important to try to ensure that the rewards stay safely with those who are earning them. New York and Tucson school officials have lined up banks willing to place direct deposits into accounts for the students. Bank officials will visit the schools to teach financial literacy.

Yes, it’s sad that education has come to this. But with the right controls and safeguards, paying for grades, crazy as it may seem, is an idea that’s worth trying.

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Getting Paid For Grades?

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

Posted: Thursday, 16 October 2008 5:03PM

Getting Paid For Grades?

CHICAGO (WBBM)  — Ten students at Manley High School Thursday became the first in the city to receive cash rewards for posting good grades.
Freshman Jasmine Cole said the controversial program is a “great incentive.”

“It feels good to know that you’re getting money to get good grades,” she said.  “I’m going to buy my momma something my daddy something and the rest, I’m going to buy me an outfit.”

Manley placed highest among the schools participating in the program for the system’s first marking period.  In all, the system is distributing $260,000 for good grades earned during the first of its eight marking periods.

Nearly 150 Manley students attended the ceremony, and heard words of encouragement from the creator of the “Paper Project” program, Roland Fryer, who transformed himself from dropout drug dealer to Harvard educator.

He urged the students to “take more money from me.”

Freshmen and sophomores at all Chicago public high schools are eligible for the program, which pays $50 for each “A” grade, $35 for each “B” and $20 for each “C.”  Half is paid every five weeks; the rest is put into a college fund that will be given to them at graduation.

Schools CEO Arne Duncan said there should be an incentive beyond the cash they can earn, which could amount to $4,000 if students get straight A grades their freshmen and sophomore years.

He said the younger brothers, sisters and friends of high school freshmen and sophomores are watching them as examples to follow.

Contents of this site are Copyright 2008 by WBBM.

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Chicago Offers Students Cash for Good Grades

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

Chicago Offers Students Cash for Good Grades

Pilot Program in 20 of the City’s Public Schools

At Chicago’s Manley High School, good grades equal green, which has studious pupils like Cierra Banks cashing in on their marks.

“They paying me over $100 to get As,” said Banks, 15, who was happy to collect on her five As and one B.

It’s part of the “Green for Grades” program, which is a component of the school’s graduation incentive plan. The pilot program began in September and applies to 20 of Chicago’s 125 public high schools.

Administrators and participating schools hope the money motivator will increase students’ chances of succeeding in school and combat Chicago’s high dropout rate.

“We have to do everything we can to get our dropout rate down to zero and to do it as fast as we can,” Chicago public schools CEO Arne Duncan said.

Half the city’s freshmen entering public schools wind up leaving without a diploma. It’s a staggering statistic for the nation’s third-largest school system, which includes more than 650 schools and about 405,000 students.

How Much Is an ‘A’ Worth?

Although it’s too soon to draw official conclusions, students said they’ve seen a marked difference in their performances since “Green for Grades” was enacted.

“I’m happy because I’m getting paid for my grades,” student Tatierra Strong, 14, said. “And so, I want to work harder.”

The students can earn $50 for As, $35 for Bs and $20 for a C in their freshman and sophomore years. So, in theory, a straight-A pupil could earn as much as $4,000.

Teachers evaluate the students every five weeks, and that’s when they receive their pay, according to Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Ana Vargas.

Vargas said the estimated cost per student is between $1,000 and $2,000 annually, none of which comes from taxpayers. Donors and a foundation foot the bills for the good grades.

After sophomore year, students are no longer paid for their marks, the idea being that the grades themselves should be incentive enough, Vargas said. Juniors and seniors also get more secondary training, college planning and aid with standardized university entrance exams, like the SAT and ACT.

“We’re convinced, if students have a great freshman year, a great sophomore year, our graduation rates would go up exponentially,” Duncan said.


Chicago’s “Green for Grades” program offers high school freshmen and sophomores money for good marks.

For the students hoping to bank good grades and cash, there is one catch; pupils only get half their money up front. The rest comes after graduation.


How Effective Is It?

While students may give the program good grades — 178 cashed in for a total of $45,000 on the year’s first progress reports — critics contend that offering money for academic achievement is a hindrance.

“The idea that poor kids can only be bribed with money rather than authentically engaged with meaningful learning tasks is insulting and in some cases borders on racist,” said Alfie Kohn, author of “Punished by Rewards.”

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Chicago kids to be paid for grades

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

Chicago kids to be paid for grades

Hand of a teacher writing on a blackboardWould you have studied harder if you knew there was cold hard cash on the line? That’s the hope of adminstrators in Chicago where they are implementing a plan designed at Harvard wherein kids will get fifty dollars for an A, thirty-five for a B, and twenty bucks for a C. They get half up front and half when they graduate. Students can earn as much as four thousand dollars over the course of the first two years of high school.

Rewarding good grades is nothing new, of course. Usually, however, those rewards come from the parents. “The majority of our students don’t come from families with a lot of economic wealth. I’m always trying to level the playing field,” said schools chief executive Arne Duncan. “This is the kind of incentive that middle-class families have had for decades.”

Not everyone thinks it’s a good idea, though. “It’s a terrible idea, because you’re getting people to do things for the wrong reasons,” said Swarthmore College psychology professor Barry Schwartz. “They’ll do well in school, maybe, but they won’t take any of it out with them. Instead of trying to cultivate an interest in learning, curiosity . . . you are just turning this into another job.”

I too think learning is its own reward, but I also know that wasn’t necessarily the attitude I had when I was in school. If this program can get kids to study and stay in school when they would otherwise do poorly and possibly drop out, then perhaps it’s worth a try.

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Good grades pay off literally

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

Good grades pay off literally

Teachers have long said that success is its own reward. But these days, some students are finding that good grades can bring them cash and luxury gifts.
Alexis Yarger, 16, is all smiles after officials from her school district in Georgia announced the new "learn and earn" program, in which students will get paid for attending tutoring sessions.
By John Amis, AP
Alexis Yarger, 16, is all smiles after officials from her school district in Georgia announced the new “learn and earn” program, in which students will get paid for attending tutoring sessions.

In at least a dozen states this school year, students who bring home top marks can expect more than just gratitude. Examples:

•Baltimore schools chief Andres Alonso last week promised to spend more than $935,000 to give high school students as much as $110 each to improve their scores on state graduation exams.

•In New York City, about 9,000 fourth- and seventh-graders in 60 schools are eligible to win as much as $500 for improving their scores on the city’s English and math tests, given throughout the school year.

•In suburban Atlanta, a pair of schools last week kicked off a program that will pay 8th- and 11th-grade students $8 an hour for a 15-week “Learn & Earn” after-school study program (the federal minimum wage is currently $5.85).

In most cases, the efforts are funded privately through corporate or philanthropic donors.

The most ambitious experiment began in September, when seven states — Arkansas, Alabama, Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington — won spots in an Exxon/Mobil-funded program that, in most cases, pays students $100 for each passing grade on advanced placement (AP) college-prep exams.

It’s an effort to get low-income and minority students interested in the courses, says Tommie Sue Anthony, president of the Arkansas Advanced Initiative for Math and Science. “We still have students who are not sure of the value, who are not willing to take the courses,” she says. “Probably the incentives will make a difference with those students.”

Gregg Fleisher of the National Math and Science Initiative, which runs the seven-state program, says the effort is modeled on a program adopted by Dallas in the 1995-96 school year that saw AP course-taking jump substantially. That program is now statewide.

While many educators would blanch at offering kids cash for good grades, Fleisher and others say the idea is simple: “It’s an incentive to get them to basically make the right decision and choose a more rigorous class,” he says. “This teaches them that if they work at something very hard and have a lot of support, they can do something they didn’t think they could do.”

An analysis of the Texas program last month by Cornell economist C. Kirabo Jackson found that it linked to a 30% rise in the number of students with high SAT and ACT scores and an 8% rise in college-going students.

But a few critics say the payouts amount to little more than bribes, undermining kids’ motivation to do high-quality work when they’re not being paid.

“It’s a strategy that helps only around the edges,” says Thomas Toch of the Education Sector, a Washington think tank. Most students in AP classes “are already internally motivated, and the opportunity to earn college credits for passing AP tests is a bigger motivator than small cash awards.”

Bob Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a watchdog group, is more blunt: “Bribing kids for higher test scores — or paying teachers bounties for their students’ work — is similar to giving them steroids,” he says. “Short-term performance might improve but the long-term effects can be very damaging.”

At Northeast Health Science Magnet High School in Macon, Ga., principal Sam Scavella says he’s trying lots of different incentives for doing the right thing. If students attend Saturday study sessions, they qualify for an iPod, movie tickets or a dinner for two, among other prizes.

Jessie Humphrey, a sophomore at Northeast, is one of 25 students who made the school’s All-A Honor Roll. That entitled her to a slot in a special drawing Thursday. When it was over, she walked away with a 26-inch, flat-screen television set, which now sits in her room.

An honor roll student most years, Jessie, 15, says she usually pulls As and Bs, but this semester, “I got lucky and got all As.”

Scavella says the incentives seem to be making a difference — only 10 students made the All-A Honor Roll this time last year.

“We have to reward the behavior we expect,” he says. “I don’t see it as a way of paying students to do well — it’s a reward. If you do well in school, then life will pay you well. If you do well in school , you can afford a lifestyle that will pay you well.”

The two-year New York City experiment, begun last September, essentially pays students monthly to do their best on skills tests. If it seems like an economist’s dream, that’s because it’s the brainchild of wunderkind Harvard economist Roland Fryer, who also serves as the schools’ chief equality officer. He came up with the idea while trying to figure out how to make school “tangible” for disadvantaged kids with few successful role models. “I just thought that giving them some short-term incentives to do what’s in their long-term best interests would be a good way to go.”

While teachers talk about success, he says, it’s not enough to tell a kid that, in the long term, hard work will pay off. “We’re asking them to look down a path that they have probably never seen anyone go down … and then to have the wisdom and the fortitude to wait for their reward.”

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Students paid for grades find value beyond money

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

Students paid for grades find value beyond money

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 05/16/08

The money was nice, but it wasn’t what kept Jailyn Brown in a pilot program that paid students $8 an hour to study.

The 14-year-old eighth grader was among a small group of Fulton County students who took part in “Learn & Earn,” a privately funded after-school tutoring program with monetary rewards.

Jessica McGowan/AJC
Bear Creek student Oszie Sutton, 14, receives an appreciation award from Fulton County Commisioner Robb Pitts and Jackie Cushman, president of Learning Makes a Difference, during a celebration Tuesday held for students participating in the ‘Learn and Earn’ after-school study program at Creekside High School in Fairburn. The trial program paid students to study after school.

“It was his success that really got him excited,” said his mom, Alanna Taylor. “He got more benefit from his good grades than the money.”

Tuesday, more than 35 students celebrated the end of the 15-week pilot program. Parents and program supporters gathered to congratulate the students.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich sent a video by his daughter, Jackie Cushman, president of the Learning Makes a Difference Foundation board of directors.

He told students they are now “part of history,” and that the teachers, students and parents were the “heart of this experiment.”

Each student’s official results won’t be released until June or July, but Taylor said she has seen marked improvement in her son and his grades.

“There were concerns about him moving to the ninth grade in the beginning,” she said. “But not any more.”

Jailyn said he was once failing math and science, but now is passing both classes. “I’ve even got A’s and B’s in science,” he said.

The program, which began in January, was conducted at Bear Creek Middle and neighboring Creekside High. Twenty students from each school were in the trial group. Students barely making academic standards, or those performing below the mark in math and science, were picked for the first run.

Program administrators estimated three students dropped out of the program.

The initiative was funded by Charles Loudermilk, chairman and chief executive officer of Aaron Rents, through the Learning Makes a Difference Foundation, a local nonprofit designed to improve education. Loudermilk, who did not attend the celebration, committed the entire budget of $60,000.

Cushman didn’t say whether the program would survive past its pilot stage.

“Let’s just see what the results are and go from there,” she told the parents.

At the rate of $8 an hour or $32 a week, Jailyn and the other students had the chance to earn $480 by the end of the school year. The amount they actually earned was tied to their attendance and participation.

Taylor said Jailyn put a lot of his money in a savings account.

“We also used this opportunity to teach budgeting and how to spend money,” she said. “And in the end, he didn’t do it for the money. He did it for himself.”

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