Cash for Good Grades? Some Schools Give It a Try
Some public schools are paying students to succeed in school. Is this approach effective? Is it ethical?
Should schools give students cash for good grades?
- 27% - Yes. It will motivate struggling students.
- 46% - No. Bribing students is always wrong.
- 27% - Maybe. We should test a reward system.
Total votes: 1,381
GreatSchools asks: Should schools give students cash for good grades? Parents weigh in
By GreatSchools Staff
It used to be that earning an "A" was enough of a reward for doing well in school. Today, in an effort to boost achievement, some schools give students (especially those at risk for low achievement) gift cards or high-tech gadgets. And in a surprising trend, some are rewarding students with cash.
Public schools across the country are experimenting with incentive programs. In urban districts and rural outposts, some schools reward students who earn higher test scores and grades. Rewarding students' efforts and achievement with gold stars and token prizes is, of course, nothing new. Paying them in cash is another matter.
What's the short-term impact of these cash-incentive programs on student motivation, grades and test scores? Will this approach engage students in learning for the long haul?
Urban Initiatives for Education Reform
Some cash-incentive programs target low-income and minority students - kids who are underachieving and who are at risk of school failure. Many of these students aren't on track to graduate from high school, much less go on to college. Three of the most-publicized programs are:
- New York City's Spark program (now in its second year), awards fourth- and seventh-graders cash for high achievement on a series of math and reading tests throughout the year. A fourth-grader can earn up to $250 a year, while a seventh-grader can earn up to $500.
- Washington, D.C.'s Capital Gains program gives middle school students cash rewards for performance in five areas: attendance, behavior and three academic measures, such as completing homework and earning high grades (these determined by individual schools).
- The Paper Project in Chicago encourages ninth and 10th-grade students in 25 high schools to earn better grades and pass their classes. Every six weeks successful students receive half of their reward money as a check or bank deposit; the other half is awarded to them upon graduation from high school. While the average student earns $800 in reward money per year, a very successful student can earn up to $2,000. Participating banks that receive the deposits offer to teach kids how to manage their accounts.
While these programs are offered at different school levels, all were designed by Dr. Roland Fryer, an economics professor at Harvard University's Education Innovation Laboratory and his team. Fryer makes it clear that these financial-incentive programs are experimental and are not intended to be the total solution to improving student achievement. After the initial experimental years, he and his team will analyze the program results. From there, they'll develop additional innovations that are scalable and evidence-based - and in keeping with the overarching goal of improving academic achievement.
It's important to note that these incentive programs are not funded by taxpayer dollars. Support comes from foundations and other private funders.