Sunday, November 2, 2008

Incentives for students who get good grades

The Washington Post reports on experimental programs to reward inner city kids when they do well in school: Incentives Can Make Or Break Students: Ethical Issues Come With Gains on Tests
"The inducements range from prepaid cellphones to MP3 players to gift certificates. But most of them are cash: $10 for New York City seventh-graders who complete a periodic test; $50 for Chicago high school freshmen who ace their courses; as much as $110 to Baltimore students for improved scores on the Maryland High School Assessments. "

Some find this repugnant: "Critics denounce the initiatives as bribery and say the money could be better invested in ideas known to work, such as smaller class size. They also point to a body of psychological research suggesting that tangible rewards can erode children's intrinsic motivation. DePaul University education professor Ronald Chennault says there are ethical issues posed by the ventures, most of which are experimental and dependent on private funding and local political support."

Harvard's Roland Fryer is directing some of these experiments. "This is not a silver bullet," he said during a recent visit to the District. "But it's better than sitting around and doing nothing."

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