Journal 3-Should Students Be Paid?
Toppo, G (2008, Aug. 1). Good grades pay off literally. USA Today, Retrieved 2/3, 2009, from http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2008-01-27-grades_N.htm
The idea of paying students for grades is really nothing new. But for a large school district in Washington D.C. to try the experiment is a big deal. 15 middle schools in Washington D.C. have started what is called the "Capital Gains" program. Students get paid incentives to go to school, behave and get good grades. The program just started this past fall and provides payment for some 3,300 students. Supporters of the "Capital Gains" program state that many life lessons are being learned. Showing up on time and putting in 100% effort are just two of the life lessons students learn that are not part of the stated curriculum. The maximum that students can earn is $100 every two weeks. When the first payments came out in October 2008, the average check was $43. This program did cost Washington D.C. $137,813. The money does not go directly to the students. It is placed in a student bank account that they can not access until they are 18 years old.
Some have stated that in away a pay-to-behave program for inter-city students is in some ways racist. The argument there is that D.C. school officials may be sending the message that we understand that your students are out of control and don't work hard in school and in-turn your methods have not work. The message may be that black parents are not able to discipline or motive their children to do well in school so we will just pay them off. Fryer, the black Harvard Economist who created the "Capital Gains" program for D.C. middle schools, totally disagrees. If any thing, Fryer states, "the real subtle racism here is the fact that we're continuing to do the same things we've always done, and we're allowing these children not to achieve."
Does this kind of incentive program work. Well, in Texas it did. According to 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." (Tuppo, USA Today) Many people feel that these incentives can be harmful. Many students seem to be self motivated to earn good grades and go to school and not earn money. Often, college credit is give to students in classes and the college credit seems to be a bigger motivator than money. 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." (Tuppo USA Today)
I really feel that we want students, at whatever cost, deep down, to love learning and the love of learning be the true motivator for them as part of their journeys to lifelong learners. I cannot see how earning money for behavior and good grades can in any way contribute to love of learning being the motivator. Money, to some, is the anti-motivator. I understand the program and I actually give Dr. Fryer a lot of credit for giving it a try in 15 D.C. middle schools. I understand the idea of being a risk taker and trying something new. And honestly I hope it works. But if it does not work, I wonder if we could be further behind? How will all students feel if the money is no more and the "Capital Gains" experiment goes away. Will teachers have a harder time getting students to come to school, behave and work hard? Oh, ya...what happens to the love of learning for learning's sake. I feel that concept will be even farther out of reach.