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Cash Rewards for Students?


The REACH program, operating in 31 schools in New York City, is offering low-income and minority students cash incentives for high AP test scores. Starting this school year, students earning a score of 3—the first passing score—stand to make $500, a score of 4 earns $750, and a top score of 5 will be worth $1,000.

What do you think? Would monetary incentives drive more students to take AP exams and score well on them? Should students be given the chance to cash in on their AP scores? Or are there better ways to step up high school rigor?


That's about the dumbest thing I've ever heard. While we're at it, why don't we give the same amount to the parent's of these students to incentivize them to be better parents.

While we're at it, why not pay them to get out of bed?

I think it's a great idea! Most urban and rural high school students are at or below the poverty line and are forced to work menial jobs after school to help their families make ends meet. The time spent at working is taking time away from studying. If the financial incentive will have students chosing to take AP course over working, then we have achieved our goal.

Absolutely not! My neighbor is in her mid to late 20s. She and her husband recently relocated from Baltimore, Maryland, to the Upstate New York area to escape Baltimore's high crime, poverty, and murder rates. She said that while she was in high school such incentives were "standard practice." Apparently, she and other students were rewarded for "positive" academic performance with gift certificates to buy popular (very expensive) sneakers, etc. She admitted that this greatly motivated her and her classmates to achieve. Such practices would certainly motivate students, especially those who are socially and financially impoverished, to “perform for the sake of a reward." It promotes the notion among students (and parents) that education is simply preparing for and passing assessments. It does not encourage learning—life long learning, the kind that enables students to change their lives, if not their communities and the world. My neighbor often laments the present condition of her former classmates, most of whom, if still alive, have failed to overcome poverty and its companions—drug addiction, incarceration, unplanned parenthood—despite all the rewards they received for passing tests while in school.

Students are motivated the same way teachers are. Money is not the answer...I can "dog and pony" it for anyone. The kids can, too.

Provide them with quality teaching and APPROPRIATE praise. Remember to do that and they will leap tall buildings in a single bound!

As an African American teacher who has successfully taught AP classes to kids of all races, gender and socioeconomic backgrounds for the last five years, I can unequivocally tell you that this is a terrible idea. It presumes that poor children and children of color are only motivated by money. It insults their integrity as well as the integrity of teaching.

My students have routinely scored higher than the national average as a class on their mean scores for their AP tests, with the majority earning 4s and 5s. Why? Because the students rise to the level of my expectations. I convey that I believe that they can do it, I make sure that they know we are a team in this together for their exam performance, and my belief in them buoys them.

The challenge in teaching students to succeed at AP is not bribery, but finding ways to make the material engaging. AP classes afford a wonderful opportunity to do that, for we as teachers are told not to be slaves to the textbook...in fact well-trained AP teachers know we have to supplement with materials, debate, team exercises, role plays, research, field trips, document analysis...all the wonderful things that make kids own and experience what they are learning.

I also make sure that the students understand the benefits of AP tests and how they can help improve their competitiveness for college placement. Most "get" that right away. Yet, we work in the class as a team...everyone is trying to master the material and to work together to ensure that they ALL do well on the exam. Excellence thus does not become something for only the "star" student, but something we both believe that they all can achieve. It is amazing to sees students perform under this philosophy. Each one of my classes gels as a team by the time the course is finished.

My observations of AP kids of color who fall by the wayside tend to be from hearing bad news from other kids that even after taking an AP class, they could not pass an AP test. This is because too many untrained AP teachers teach poor children and children of color. All students facing AP exams need to be taught a test-taking skill set. Most untrained AP teachers---and too often those are the teachers training poor students and students of color---do not know how to teach the test-taking skill set. Those of us trained by the AP classes know what skill set to teach, and that it is important to instill the practices associated with the skill set throughout our curriculum exercises. In contrast, most untrained teachers think that all this is giving one or two practice tests before the exam at the end of the course.

Want more kids of any hue to take AP courses and tests? Prepare and place better AP teachers. Let subject area expertise and AP certification by the College Board substitute for state standards for certification at the hiring table. In other words, accept this as a hiring credential. Public schools would gain much stronger AP teachers.

At my last school, we tried everything to motivate students to take the achievment tests seriously. Nothing seemed to work. Newton Learning had practiced paying students for attendance at Summer School and the results were astounding. Therefore, we offered cash for performance on the end of the year assessment, and the scores increased dramatically. Sure, we should not have to do this. However, when the school is the one being judged, and not the student, we had to do what we could to motivate the students. Agree or disagree, our school district was recognized for the good test scores.

"The challenge in teaching students to succeed at AP is not bribery, but finding ways to make the material engaging."... great words, if only they could apply to reality. AP teachers understand that kids take their classes not because of curiosity or slight interest, but because "AP English" looks great on a college trascript. "AP English, AP History, AP Bio" looks even better. Which is why kids are way too busy to spend the right amount of time in AP classes. Taking shortcuts (aka cheating or doing the bare minimum) is the mindset that 95% of AP kids have.

The CollegeBoard shouldn't be the one to qualify teachers on whether they are AP-ready or not. I would do anything to get rid of the CollegeBoard, they're the ones at fault for making standardized tests the basis on education today. I had to take 3 extremely similiar, expensive, and CollegeBoard created tests on the same subject. Or else, colleges wouldn't like me so much.

So instead of relying on corporations who make decisions about how are kids will succeed behind closed doors and with money as their huge incentive, we should focus on getting kids who are actually interested in the subject, and measure advanced placement success in how deeply kids think about the subject.

Here, here 12th grader!

The problem is...many of your teachers don't know how to think for themselves after 12+ years of their own schooling.

I propose a simple test to gauge student interest in a course: have an open door policy. Allow students the freedom to have recess all day if they choose. Then we'll see how many kids are actaully getting anything beneficial out of their classes.

We'll also see how effective teachers really are and how useful the curriculum is?

I love the idea presented in the last post regarding the "open door" policy, assuming kids are mature enough to make decisions at that age - I know I wasn't :).

I actually like the concept of "layering incentives." Should we promote motivation based on a true desire to learn? Absolutely. Should we also offer more practical and short-term reinforcement? Absolutely.

When I do behavior management training for groups of staff/teachers, I often ask those in the room who would continue to come to work if they stopped receiving a paycheck. Sure, most staff/teachers care about kids, but they also care about their paychecks. Kids aren't much different. Sure, some care about learning for the sake of learning, but most are also motivated by more immediates rewards - grades, social approval, college admission, etc. If we are okay with adults chosing careers based on financial compensation, we aren't we okay with providing a similar motivational structure for kids?

Kids, by definition, have much lower abilities to "delay reinforcement," or wait for the payoff of their behavior. Our current education system expects kids to go through 16+ years of school or more before receiving material reward for their efforts, whereas the average adult has to wait only 2 weeks for their next paycheck. I think this is backwards, and the idea of "paying students" isn't a bad one. Keep designing highly engaging instruction and promoting interest in learning for the sake of learning, but consider as many different options as possible.

I recall on a trip to the UK talking to a principal of a secondary school in Hull who had introduced cash incentives to students if they attained a certain level. He told me that the immediate impact was positive, but he would have to wait and see in the medium term to determine if cash was a motivator. I haven't heard about that project since. Perhaps, so long as something isn't clearly morally wrong, we have to be prepared to try and research new ways.

Why not pay students for getting grades above a C.
Let's reward all students for achievementy.

I completely disagree with offering cash to students as an incentive to achieve. If students are capable of achieving for cash incentives then they are capable of achieving period. Consider the consequences of luring students in and setting a new standard for selling yourself out. Consider what this does to self-worth. I'll bet most of the students recieveing money from their school are are sitting around having a great laugh about the complete sillieness of adults and what we won't do to manipulate their behavior. This is a new low in education.

I bet an 8th grader $50.00 that he would lose the torn piece of notebook paper he used to take notes in the library. We shook on it, and 30 days later, he brought it back to show me in perfect condition. I paid him the $50.00 and that day I realized that money is an excellent motivator! I would use it!

My opinion that this chioce is a good one because if a student seeing that they are getting paid for there education they will approve in school and do good on there grades.The amount they giving is a decent amount.

I think this is absolutely ridiculous. Any educator that is promoting this kind of policy, really needs to have their head examined. How about returning to what has worked for eons in education? - STUDY AND ACTUALLY LEARN SOMETHING USEFUL.

Why is this program not available for non minorities or low-income? Shouldn't all good scores be rewarded? If its not fair to all well achieving students then whats the point. It is extremely unfair to those students who work just as hard but do not recieve a financial reward.

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Recent Comments

  • 11th Grader: Why is this program not available for non minorities or read more
  • James Rhodes: I think this is absolutely ridiculous. Any educator that is read more
  • BRINA JEAN: My opinion that this chioce is a good one because read more
  • Terri Ciaramello, School Library Media Specialisty: I bet an 8th grader $50.00 that he would lose read more
  • Tracey/Title One Teacher: I completely disagree with offering cash to students as an read more




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