Paying students to study: If it works, why not?

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Many parents have tried to inspire their children to work harder in school by offering cash bonuses for good grades. Now some school systems are testing the same strategy by paying children as early as fourth grade for their scholastic accomplishments.

A Harvard experiment in New York pays cash for good test scores, and expects to hand out $1 million in paychecks to grade-schoolers this year, according to an AP report. Another NYC project will reward students with free cell phones. In Coshocton, Ohio, 3rd through 6th grade students were offered up to $100 to improve their state exams. The program seemed to move the needle on math scores, not so much in other areas.

Other schools pay for attendance, for books read, homework completion, behavior, and class participation.

The concept of paying students to study has always been controversial, and for many years, I was against it on principal. However, perhaps the time has come to try this strategy. Certainly, something has to change in our public school system. Perhaps putting children on the payroll might help them understand the connection between education and financial betterment. For those unfortunates who don't have a parent encouraging them to study, this might give them incentive. For impoverished parents, perhaps they will push their children to learn and earn so that they can contribute to the cost of running the household.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. If paying kids to study means that in 20 years we'll have a well-educated and financially savvy population of young workers, I'd say it was worth it.

Read more:

Another view of the NYC experiment

The wacky math of grading


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