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Performance Incentives Key to Atlanta Overhaul

My colleague Lesli Maxwell has a story up this week about the Atlanta school district, which over the past ten years or so has experienced a complete overhaul from superintendent Beverly L. Hall.

The changes Ms. Hall has made to the organization and structure of the schools, as well as the initiatives she has pushed for to jumpstart student achievement are far-reaching, but a couple of things I read about in the article struck me as particularly relevant to readers of this blog.

One initiative, called Project GRAD, encourages students to perform at high levels in school in order to be eligible for $4,000 worth of scholarships upon graduation.

Along the way, students receive hours of college counseling, help in filling out admissions and financial-aid applications, summer enrichment programs, and trips to college campuses nearby and far away. Once students are enrolled in college, Project GRAD counselors work to help retain them with annual follow-up visits to the students on campus.

Sounds like a good way to get students invested in what they're learning in high school and continue that support through college.

The other change I wanted to point out was Ms. Hall's mandate to each school to set achievement targets. If those targets were met, she awarded the schools' faculty and staff members with cash.

This is an example of how incentives, along with many other structural changes and ideas, can play a part in increasing motivation and boosting achievement. Used alone, I doubt Atlanta schools would see the gains that they have, but combined with many other efforts, those incentive-based initiatives have been successful.

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