Thursday, November 15, 2018

Should Kids Get Paid for Grades?

Call me old fashioned, but when I was a kid we went to school to learn. We didn’t get paid for grades, had to attend classes whether we liked them or not, and we just knew it – no bribery needed. As the education system in America has struggled to provide students with first class educations on low-string budgets, a new approach has been emerging. Funding has gotten very creative, including paying students for arriving to school on time, attending classes, behaving at school, getting good grades, and achieving higher than typical test scores.

As communities struggle with increasing drop-out rates and lower than acceptable test scores, the students are the ones who are missing out on their futures. Many schools that are choosing to pay for performances are doing so in desperate attempts to save their students from the dangers of quitting school with a poor quality 9th grade education. The end goals are to increase graduation rates and test scores, with the attempt to then set students up for more successful futures in either higher education or better paying jobs out of school. But does this really work to meet these end goals?

The Benefits of Paying Students for Their Performances

Families across the country pay their own children for report card performances. Parents search for motivating factors for their children to succeed in school, and have found that money is a great influencer. It indeed might get their attention and motivate them to do better in classes if the payout is large enough and the need is great enough. Generally families with middle to higher levels are the ones offering financial bonuses to their kids, while children from poorer neighborhoods might be the ones left with fewer resources to both succeed in school and have families who pay for grades.

When school boards step up to the plate and decide to offer financial incentives for students’ performances it gets more attention, and the ramifications can be much different. One researcher in particular has been taking a very close look at the strategies used and the outcomes achieved. Harvard economist Roland Fryer Jr. has spent years studying the effects of paying for student performances and has found that if the incentives are designed correctly, the end goals can be reached.

His studies showed that younger students appeared to be the most influenced, and the monetary amount did not have to be as high, but there is no way of knowing if their motivation would continue in later years. When the goals were achievable and clearly and narrowly defined, such as wearing school uniforms each day or not being tardy to class, students knew how to achieve these goals and were therefor successful. The interesting portion is that when the goals were more far-reaching, such as increased standardized test scores, the students didn’t know how to reach those goals so the success rates were lower.

In one test group 2nd graders were paid to read books, and their reported reading times increased, thus the goal was met. The extra payoff was that the student’s reading scores on future tests were increased. While the over-all goals might be better test scores and increased graduation rates, students don’t have the skills to reach these goals, even when paid for them. They respond much better to smaller, more manageable goals, and even in older populations of students this didn’t always work as hypothesized.

The Dangers of Paying Students for Performances

I am one who believes that true learning cannot be purchased, and that paying students for performances reduces their ability to motivate themselves later in life. The end goals in the short term might be reached, but the long-term success might even be decreased. I am not alone in this viewpoint, as many researchers have long concluded that when we trade (bribe) our children to behave in certain ways, we actually create less motivated and capable people.

One of the criticisms of these types of payment plans for students is that they are even racially motivated, as many programs are done in poorer neighborhoods with higher minority populations. These are where the students who need the most help live. Some have suggested that better parenting incentives might be the more effective and efficient plan in the long run, but the problem still remains: the education system is not developed for supporting struggling families and their students.

Paying for grades is one way to improve the numbers, but does it improve the future for the people? Yes, the job of a child is to get an education, but not all jobs should be compensated for monetarily, especially if we are seeking real results. I consider it my job to be a good parent and community member. If someone started to pay me for these performances, wouldn’t we question the validity of my job and of my motivations? We are missing the difference between actually doing a good job, versus getting the job done.

Related posts:

  1. Family Dinners Lead to Better Grades
  2. Review of “Unconditional Parenting” — Why Grades Are Making Children Less Self Motivated
  3. Help Your Kids Fight Their Fears

View full post on Parenting Tips For Raising Successful Kids |

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