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$4,000 for a 4.0

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It's been awhile since we talked about cash incentives for grades, but the subject has once again reared its head, this time in Chicago.

About 5,000 high school freshmen in 20 Chicago schools could earn $50 for every A, $35 for every B, and $20 for each C on their report cards this year, says the article. Students who receive a failing grade cannot receive any money until they bring it up to a C or better. A straight-A student could potentially earn up to $4,000 by graduation, according to the article. That's quite a bit of money.

Of course, there are some folks who say that the program just bribes kids and takes the focus of school off the intrinsic satisfaction of learning, and then there are others who say that the financial incentive will be a strong motivator for students to put forth extra effort for their grades.

Whenever this topic comes up, I inevitably think back to my conversation with Roland Fryer, which I had when writing a story about cash-incentive programs in Georgia and Maryland. He said, “If you live in a more affluent neighborhood, you see automatically that education pays off. When you live in [a low-income community], it’s harder to understand. These programs, when done right, are trying to make education more tangible for kids.”

In the community I grew up in, the connection between education and success was obvious, but in other communities, that link isn't always so clear. If the promise of cash for good grades helps make that more tangible, maybe it isn't such a bad thing.

What do you think?

3 Comments

When I was young, my parents tried everything to motivate my brothers academically- including, at one point, money for grades. They actually set up a program where we were paid for high grades, but we paid them for low grades. It seemed to be a good system, but my brothers didn't ever get more motivated because they broke just about even. I loved it, though- for the same grades I'd been earning anyway, I'd receive $40 a grade card. They quickly realized the system wasn't making any change, and stopped doing it.

However, in a summer biology program I've worked with for high schoolers, money seemed to be a strong motivator for students to study harder, so I'm torn on the issue. I wish all students were motivated intrinsically, but the fact of the matter is, they're not- and yet we still want them to learn.

What if students could earn scholarship money? Would that encourage students to continue in some kind of postsecondary education (or would the students earning it be the ones to go on after high school anyway)?

For some students, especially in the Chicagoland area, they are forced to choose between education and jobs to support their families. Paying students who succeed in school may help those students stay in school longer.

Paying tudents for achievement is not "bribing" as they only receive money if they have earned the grades. This makes the students responsible for their own behaviour and teaches them the value of hard work.

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  • Barbara A. Matalon: Paying tudents for achievement is not "bribing" as they only read more
  • Jean Claire: For some students, especially in the Chicagoland area, they are read more
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