June 8, 2009

Paid for Grades

Have you heard of Roland Fryer? He's a Harvard professor who founded a very controversial incentive program for students: cash for grades. The idea of this program is to give students an immediate incentive for learning and to decrease dropout rates.

Every five weeks, students are evaluated and earn $50 for A's, $35 for B's, and $20 for C's. Students receive half of their earnings up front and the remaining amount upon graduation. In all, there is potential for students to earn $4000 for their grades (the program stops after sophomore year). It's also important to note that this program is funded by private donors or the foundation itself, not by taxes.

In New York schools, where the program was first introduced, test scores have increased nearly 40%. That's huge!! Since some Chicago Public Schools have adopted this program, they've reported up to 86% of their students being paid. Teachers have remarked that students seem much more motivated to do well in school and have even formed their own study groups. I haven't seen any numbers related to absenteeism, but I'm willing to bet those numbers are also down since students can see the correlation between attendance and grades.

What I'm seeing here is evidence of learning. And isn't that the goal of education? I certainly don't think this program is the solution for all students, but I definitely see the positive impact it's made in many schools. Don't get me wrong, though, I can see how this program can be a huge headache for teachers - on a number of levels. But at the end of the day, I think that this works in the best interest of the students, which is why it gets my approval.

This morning, on The View, Elisabeth Hasselback suggested a scholarship match rather than cash upon graduation. What I like about that suggestion is that it still allows for the immediate gratification of payment along the way with the added benefit of having money reserved for college or a trade school. It's one more step in making higher education attainable for all students (which I believe is essential).

So, readers, what do you think? Is this a program you'd support?


  1. I think that intrinsic rewards are longer lasting.

    You brought out the best in your kids without paying them. They are proud of themselves.

    Maybe there should be stricter consequences for failing...like not passing. mom

  2. It's funny that you say that because you paid me for grades at one time.

    As I said, I don't think this is for the average kid (ones who can be motiviated my intrinsic rewards alone). This program is designed for struggling schools where there isn't always a high value on education. If we don't help them help themselves, we all suffer in the end.

  3. I have such mixed feelings on this. Deep down inside I think it's not a good idea, that kids (and anyone, in general) should want to do well for themselves, not for an outward reward. But to better themselves and move on upwards. However I realize (especially in parenting different personalities) that some kids need rewards and incentives (beyond intrinsic rewards) to really want to strive to do better. I just have such mixed feelings. I do, however, like the idea of putting the money aside towards college or in a college fund that can be used for and towards college. However, my assumption, is that most kids that college money would mean something too are already the kids striving and doing their best. But I know that's a negative (and possibly false) assumption.
    Great post Erin! VERY thought provoking!!

  4. I am realizing now that I made a lot of grammar errors in that Erin and you're an English teacher.
    Please forgive me! :)

  5. I promise not to judge you, my loyal reader! :)