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Paying Kids & Parents To Do Better In School - What's The Difference?

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Fryer_Roland.jpg
Though it's not my favorite thing in the world, I'm not nearly as opposed as some are to the idea of paying poor kids and their parents for doing things like going to school and doing well there. And it's not just because a young Harvard professor named Roland Fryer (pictured) says it's a good idea, or because it's worked in Mexico.

Lots of parents already pay their kids for chores and good grades. And lots of educators already reward kids with pizza parties and pencils and field trips for behaving well and doing good work. Fair or not, people get paid more or less depending on how well they do at school and at work (except in education, of course). So I don't see much difference in encouraging kids and their parents to do right in the short term, especially if it helps all of us in the long term.

But at least a few others don't like the idea much, as this Joseph Berger column from the NY Times relates (Some Wonder if Cash for Good Test Scores Is the Wrong Kind of Lesson). Or maybe they just don't like anything Chancellor Klein proposes these days. In the piece, Berger finds a mom who says she doesn't want the cash payments that New York is planning on doling out -- but then reveals that the woman's children won't be eligible since they're not considered poor. No problem. Now she doesn't like the program because it only goes to poor kids. Doh! It's not a very convincing column -- to me, at least, though whether NYC and Fyer (who now works for the district) can or will implement the program well is another question.
3 Comments

The thought of paying kids and or parents to do better in school is beyond me! Parents are supposed to be role models for their children. So paying the parents to make their children go to school will help solve the attendence problem? No, I don't think so. Parents set examples for their children. These parents need to instill in their children that they need school and that school is the right thing to do not to be paid! It does not matter if the parents and children are poor. If these parents tell their children you need to go to school and get a decent education you can do anything you want to do. The sky is the limit! I am a parent myself of a 15 year old. I am by no means rich, but my parents told me go to school, make good grades, go to college and then you choose a career so you can take care of yourself. Hopefully you will do better than us (parents).

thanks for your comment, marjorie -- you're not the only one who thinks that way.

but what about the kids whose parents aren't sending those messages to their kids, and who are struggling day to day themselves?

if a little money helped them, wouldn't it be ok -- and wouldn't we all be better off?

I can come in big on the value side of this argument (although I would suggest that many schools are not highly supportive of the value of kids being in school, or being in class when there--example, suspensions for poor attendance or tardiness), but I am old and weathered enough to take a second look at things that work. I just don't think that this one does. I think the evidence in the US, with moms receiving government assistance, is that it didn't.

I think that this proposal is based on some false assumptions--parents of poor kids don't care (enough) about how their kids do in school. They care (more) about money, and if properly motivated they and their kids can do better in school.

As the parent of a teenager who swims upstream every school day to get the kid to school--only to be informed after a time that he hasn't been there, or hasn't been to all his classes, or wasn't there on time--I think there is more missing than parent/family motivation. Some problems that could be looked at are lack of ownership for the education of certain kids, lack of skill or agreement when it comes to the job of engaging teenagers in education, or the overwhelming problems of some urban schools that lead teachers to close their doors when the bell rings and teach only to those kids "who really want to learn."

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