Should We Bribe Kids And Teachers For Good Grades?

Here’s a question where money meets ethics: should kids be paid for good results in school? No, we’re not talking about parents dishing out the occasional $5 or $10 bill to junior for getting an “A”. Instead, there’s a new sheriff in town. Now schools and teachers are doing the giving and are handing out much more than most moms and dads. The details:

The fourth graders squirmed in their seats, waiting for their prizes. In a few minutes, they would learn how much money they had earned for their scores on recent reading and math exams. Some would receive nearly $50 for acing the standardized tests, a small fortune for many at this school, P.S. 188 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

And it’s not only the kids making money off the scores…

The children were unaware that their teacher, Ruth Lopez, also stood to gain financially from their achievement. If students show marked improvement on state tests during the school year, each teacher at Public School 188 could receive a bonus of as much as $3,000.

The objective of such programs, of course, is to give kids an incentive to learn more (which theoretically would be reflected on test scores.) But not everyone is buying this concept:

Critics of these efforts say that children should be inspired to learn for knowledge’s sake, not to earn money, and question whether prizes will ultimately lift achievement. Anticipating this kind of argument, New York City was careful to start the student experiment with private donations, not taxpayer money, avoiding some of the controversy that has followed the Baltimore program, which uses public money.

In these times where American education seems to be slipping compared to much of the world, is this a viable option for better educating children? Or is the concept of paying kids to do well on tests so full of ethical, moral, and social pitfalls that it’s destined to ultimately fail?

Next Question: Can Students Be Paid to Excel? [New York Times]


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