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Paying for Grades

I don’t want to believe this, but it turns out that paying kids for grades may actually work in some cases.

High school kids in Texas were paid for passing Advanced Placement exams.  A long-term study showed that these kids not only had better GPAs, but also more of them went to college, performed better, and Dollars  were more likely to earn their degrees.  Minority groups were most affected by pay-for-grades, with African-American kids 10% more likely to go to college and 50% more likely to graduate than previously.

Cornell professor Kirabo Jackson, author of the study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, thinks that paying kids to for grades gives them practical, tangible results that make their studying easily explainable to their less academic peers. 

The cost of the program was about $200 per student. 

Cynics (including me) would say that paying kids for grades is inherently unappealing in that it undercuts the idea that some things – like learning – are inherently valuable and worthwhile.  And I have long disliked the idea of paying kids to do what they should be doing anyway, from making their own beds and taking out the garbage to paying attention and behaving themselves in school.

So what to do with the results of this study?  Well, first of all, I do have to wonder about the applicability of these findings.  Kids who take AP classes are fairly motivated to begin with, and we don’t know whether kids who wouldn’t have taken an AP class signed up for one when they learned about the monetary reward for passing.  More interesting to me would be the long-term effects of paying not academically able kids, but underachieving kids to attend school and pass their courses.  I still object to the idea on principle, but if it worked, it would be a lot less expensive and much more simple than NCLB or RttT.


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