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Kids Score 40 Percent Higher When They Get Paid For Grades 716

Posted by samzenpus
from the show-them-the-money dept.
A large number of schools participating in a pay-for-grades program have seen test scores in reading and math go up by almost 40 percentage points. The Sparks program will pay seventh-graders up to $500 and fourth-graders as much as $250 for good performance on 10 assessment tests. About two-thirds of the 59 schools in the program improved their scores by margins above the citywide average. "It's an ego booster in terms of self-worth. When they get the checks, there's that competitiveness -- 'Oh, I'm going to get more money than you next time' -- so it's something that excites them," said Rose Marie Mills, principal at MS 343 in Mott Haven. Critics, who are unaware that most college students don't become liberal arts majors, argue that paying kids corrupts the notion of learning for education's sake alone.

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Kids Score 40 Percent Higher When They Get Paid For Grades

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  • Oh man... (Score:5, Funny)

    by nametaken (610866) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:17PM (#28253643)

    Someone OWES my ass.

  • Dang... (Score:5, Funny)

    by scubamage (727538) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:17PM (#28253649)
    Glad it wasn't me. If I had that much cash back then it would have all been spent on pot. Smoking that much reefer would have to be bad for a developing mind... I might have become a physics major or something!
  • by ewg (158266) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:19PM (#28253667)

    Before long children will be asking to transfer to the schools that pay the best.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by alphaseven (540122)

      Before long children will be asking to transfer to the schools that pay the best.

      Or that have the dumbest students (easier competition).

  • So ... what's the typical kickback to the markers?
  • So how much... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smooth wombat (796938) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:19PM (#28253689) Homepage Journal
    did they pay this kid [slashdot.org]?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:20PM (#28253697)

    This is dangerous: studies have shown that when you give extrinsic motivation for something, the intrinsic motivation tends to die away.

    The paper I'm thinking of first observed that children in a class had lots of fun painting for no reason. Then, they started to extrinsically reward the children for painting, and the children started to paint a lot more. Then the rewards stopped, and so did the painting.

    As the link points out, there is some debate about the truth of what I just said.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overjustification_effect

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vertinox (846076)

      This is dangerous: studies have shown that when you give extrinsic motivation for something, the intrinsic motivation tends to die away.

      True, but isn't this how the United States civilization works?

      You stop paying someone to do something and then they stop doing that something? You know like what the RIAA and MPAA says about artists? If they don't get paid money, then no art will ever be made?

      Maybe I'm being a bit facetious here but considering how the "grown up" world works in regards to doing something on

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        The point is it makes them worse students. Take 10 kids who got paid to study in grade 7 and 10 kids who didn't get paid to study in grade 7. Put them in the same class, say a high school class. Group A has no intrinsic motivation because they're not being paid anymore and fails out.

        Unless you want to keep this scheme going all the way a long (pay them for grade 8, grade 9, grade 10, grade 11, grade 12, 1st year, 2nd year, 3rd year, 4th year, master's, ...) which sounds rather costly, you're going to hit a

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Het Irv (1424087)
      I wonder though if there is a intrinsic motivation in the first place. At least in the school system that I grew up in (VA public schools), the standardized tests are pushed so hard that it feels like you are being force fed information with no benefit to you. Even classes in subject that I enjoyed were difficult because there was no time for extra activities or experiments, it was all memorization and repetition. I think the way schools are setup today in the US (or at least in Virgina) removes any form
    • by mveloso (325617) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:41PM (#28254049)

      Yeah, but for 99% of the people on earth, the intrinsic motivation of their day job is somewhere near 0%. So get them used to that now, when they're kids.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sackvillian (1476885)
      That's similar to the study mentioned in either Blink or Freakonomics (pardon, I forget which) on a daycare centre that instituted a small fine if parents were late for their children. This soon caused an increase in lateness because parents could, in effect, buy off their guilt for slighting their children. What's more, removing the fine later caused an even larger increase in lateness. It seems that when you cross the line from the emotional-value realm into the realm of, say, traditional economics mot
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PitaBred (632671)
        A penalty is a significantly different motivator than a reward. If you do nothing but penalize rats, they will end up cowering in the corner doing nothing, even if you eventually institute a periodic reward. If you reward them for doing new things, they will keep trying new things, even if you periodically penalize them for doing the "wrong" thing.
    • by sjames (1099) on Monday June 08, 2009 @03:11PM (#28254439) Homepage

      Fully agreed, but until adults change the world so that it's not all about being paid, it's a bit unfair to teach them anything else.

      It's interesting how adults want to raise kids with ideal world views but won't do squat to make the world fit the view or even spend a few moments considering how (and if) it might be accomplished.

  • Who'da thunk? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Froze (398171) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:22PM (#28253739) Homepage

    The idea that offering real rewards for achievement would make a difference is something that should have been obvious to anyone. This environment of PC-Everybody-Gets-A-Trophy has really screwed people up quite badly. I will be very glad when the whole PC mentality gets scrapped.

    • Re:Who'da thunk? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by cml4524 (1520403) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:35PM (#28253945)

      Much like the heavily fantasized notion of an idyllic suburban 50's culture, the ultra-PC "everybody wins" culture never really existed. It's a nice bogeyman, though, for people who want to drone about how much better their upbringning was than everyone else's. The worst it ever really culminated in was "participant"-style rewards like ribbons and whatnot. And it's a moot point now anyway since 90% of school time is devoted to drilling kids with standardized testing preparation.

      A movement did take foot in public schools in the the early and mid 90s that emphasized self-esteem as a major factor in success, and it makes sense. If you feel bad about yourself to the point of pathology you're probably not going to strive for anything better. You can quibble about the effectiveness of specific attempts to rectify these situations, or the value in taking emphasis and public resources away from students with healthier attitudes to try and help moody kids, but stop trying to create a false history just so you have something to point a finger at in lieu of any specific concerns or solutions.

      My wife has been teaching for 2 decades now and has seen every half-baked trend come and go as administrators bounce from one artificial one-size-fits-all solution to another. There's been one thing that's been consistent through it all, and one thing only: loudmouth parents who won't shut up and let schools teach. The majority of overprotectiveness and excuse-making for failure doesn't come from the schools at all, especially not now that we have NCLB and even stricter state mandates that practically demand that children be hammered mercilessly with bullet points regardless of their performance.

      The majority of feel-good nonsense and excuse for repeated or consistent failure emanates from, and has always emanated from, parents.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jedidiah (1196)

        > Much like the heavily fantasized notion of an idyllic suburban 50's culture, the ultra-PC "everybody wins" culture never really existed.

        Bullshit. Some of us are observing it firsthand right now.

        It might work out if they actually bothered to figure out what everyone's
        strengths and weaknesses are but they don't even do that. They end up giving
        these weak rewards to students for things that they aren't even really good
        in. Meanwhile, they do their best to destroy the innate talents of students
        that don't fit

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Froze (398171)

        If we are going to laud anecdotal evidence as sufficient for refutation then I will refute your refutation with an anecdote of my own.

        I worked in a summer science camp during my undergrad studies that handed out embossed awards and ribbons to every single participant. Clearly the fact that this was done and has been done with almost every youth group leader I have spoken with is indicative that the "everybody wins" culture existed. Further, since my claim was only to its existence and not omnipresence - I

  • yah (Score:3, Insightful)

    by quall (1441799) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:22PM (#28253745)
    "Critics, who are unaware that most college students don't become liberal arts majors, argue that paying kids corrupts the notion of learning for education's sake alone." I don't know anyone who learns for the sakes of education. I don't think the 40% of kids who did better would have done so just to learn either. Money is motivation. Learning just for the hell of it is not. I wish they did this when I was in school. I got really poor grades in classes that I did no care about. I would have done much better if they paid me to learn the things that I found (and still are) useless.
  • Not a surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LinuxInDallas (73952) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:23PM (#28253769)

    It's not terribly surprising. A big problem with kids (high-school included) is that they don't understand the value of an education. If you pay them then their short-sighted nature is much more likely to place a value on it.

  • Motivation... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MobyDisk (75490) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:25PM (#28253787) Homepage
    In America, it is cool to get bad grades. I guess this means that if kids realize that hard work==success==money, that they do better. Now, how can we use this to eliminate the counterculture where it is good to be stupid? When the kids stop getting paid, do they drop down to their original performance levels? How much do they need to be paid in order to perform better? We need a lifelong study of these kids to see what impact this had.

    39.6 percentage points higher than last year, when the kids were in third grade.

    Does this mean that kids are 39.6% smarter than we thought they were? They just needed a reason to show it?

  • High-poverty (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PMuse (320639) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:26PM (#28253793)

    From TFA:

    About two-thirds of the 59 high-poverty schools in the Sparks program -- which pays seventh-graders up to $500 and fourth-graders as much as $250 for their performance on a total of 10 assessments -- improved their scores since last year's state tests by margins above the citywide average.

    1. Find a sample population with no money and lousy grades.
    2. Pay students $$ for grades.
    3. Record artificially large grade-improvements. Declare a panacea.
    4. ???
    5. Profit.
  • weird (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OrangeTide (124937) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:26PM (#28253795) Homepage Journal

    When some kids were getting paid for grades ($5 for a B, $10 for an A when I was a kid). My parents refused. They would tell me that it was expected of me to get good grades, and I didn't deserve a reward for doing what I was supposed to be doing anyways.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I'd mod you up if I didn't have posts in this topic already. There are things in life you should be doing good no matter if you get a reward or not. Getting decent grades at school (specially if your parents are paying for it, is a way to let them know you actually care about their efforts), is one of them. There are so many things that go wrong when you start rewarding things that just shouldn't. It would be like paying people to be good. How wrong is that.
      • Re:weird (Score:5, Insightful)

        by OrangeTide (124937) on Monday June 08, 2009 @04:10PM (#28255531) Homepage Journal

        You shouldn't get good grades to make your parents happy. I'm pragmatic, you should study and learn as much as you can when you're a kid because it makes life a lot easier later. Trying to "catch-up" in your last year of high school because you slacked off for the last 5 years is incredibly difficult. If you pay-as-you go, put in a little work every day, it turns out to be easier than a last minute scramble.

        Also being an undereducated adult is very frustrating. Do you need everything you learn in school? No. But the issue is, you don't necessarily know ahead of time what you need and what you don't. It depends on the situation you find yourself in 10 years down the road.

        Of course I didn't figure that out until it was almost too late, and many kids don't get it. Teenagers tend to not believe adults when we tell them that working hard and doing good in school is for their own benefit. Probably because adults lie to children all the time, and because teenagers are bad listeners.

    • Re:weird (Score:5, Insightful)

      by radtea (464814) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:57PM (#28254257)

      They would tell me that it was expected of me to get good grades, and I didn't deserve a reward for doing what I was supposed to be doing anyways.

      This still seems wrong to me. I didn't tell my kids they were expected to get good grades. I told them that KNOWLEDGE WAS VALUABLE, gave them lots of evidence that this is the case, and let them figure out the rest themselves. Although now they are in high school they know that grades have taken on a new significance because they are used as inputs to the university entrance process, they've internalized the value system that it isn't the grades that are important, it's the knowledge, the skills, the breadth of mind.

      Paying for grades is a logical outcome for a society that values neither education nor knowledge, but is interested in presenting itself as a meritocratic plutocracy. Grades are valued because they will get you into "good" schools, which are not the ones that teach the most but which generate the social connections and job opportunities to put you on the road to financial success. The value of eduction never enters into the equation.

      Societies get what they reward. Teaching kids that the only thing worth pursing is money results in a society where the only way to get kids to do anything is to pay them. That's a bad thing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PitaBred (632671)
        Versus what we're doing now, which is teaching them to "Show up, slack off, and you'll get kicked out with a diploma eventually because we don't want to deal with you any more"? I'd much prefer monetary rewards. No, it's not the idealistic "right" thing to do, but guess what? It's realistic. The vast majority of people will not do something unless there's a tangible reward attached. Be it money, a trophy, whatever, it needs to be something, and it needs to be something that a child can attach value to. Beca
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by deander2 (26173) *

      my parents did the same thing, but i wish they hadn't. at 14 (when your grades really started to count) doing all the BS busy-work homework schools shove at you was much less interesting than the girls sitting around me, or the p.t. job that paid me.

  • Look in the mirror (Score:4, Insightful)

    by plopez (54068) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:35PM (#28253947) Journal

    This is the society we have built. Consumerism, greed, status seeking etc.

    "We have met the enemy and he is us." -- Pogo

  • Compete with drugs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by s31523 (926314) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:36PM (#28253973)
    I wonder if this would help keep kids on the books and off the pipe or off the corner selling dope... I mean if you could earn $500 for getting a good grade then it might not be so desirable for the kids to seek out gangs and drugs as a source of income... The situation is much more complicated, but it does eliminate some of the argument from the inner city kids who state that studying ain't gonna put food on the table. I know, many people are yelling "That is the parents job", but that is not reality for an inner-city kid with 4 siblings and 1 parent who is addicted to booze and/or drugs and spends any state/fed assistance on their habit....
  • Cost v Benefit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PMuse (320639) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:38PM (#28253983)

    Is $250-500/student worth it for the improvements obtained? That's not too hard to answer. Find an alternative score-improvement technique and compare the per-pupil costs.

    (For a sense of scale, the per pupil cost of a full year's education in nearby Pennsylvania averages ~$10,700 [wikipedia.org]. This program would add ~5% to the cost of an education, though only if every student maxed it out.)

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:39PM (#28254015) Journal

    ...I was wondering about that.

  • by DarthVain (724186) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:40PM (#28254025)

    Rich kids that go to public school already know what this is all about.

    When one is artificially paid for a commodity that is normally without value, the acquisition of that commodity for sale is just good business.

    In other words I get paid 10 bucks for an A, I well pay you 5 bucks to get it for me, and make a tidy sum, or "buy your classwork from your poor student friends for better grades".

    Oh well at least they are learning something! America's future at work!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      In other words I get paid 10 bucks for an A, I [will] pay you 5 bucks to get it for me, and make a tidy sum, or "buy your classwork from your poor student friends for better grades".

      That's how they get an "education" in offshore outsourcing.
                 

  • by meridoc (134765) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:53PM (#28254209)

    This will put even more pressure on teachers to teach to the tests. Especially in low-income areas (where these trials are being done), teachers want their students to get what they're worth.

    Kids aren't "getting smarter" (by the way, what does "smart" entail?) They're learning to play the game that is the educational system.

    Also, if the sponsoring [opportunitynyc.org] organizations [harvard.edu] can afford to pay each kid $250-500, where the heck are they getting those funds, and why aren't they giving it to inner-city schools in the first place?

    • who fucking cares (Score:4, Interesting)

      as long as they learn something

    • by jambarama (784670) <jambarama@NOSpaM.gmail.com> on Monday June 08, 2009 @03:48PM (#28255035) Homepage Journal

      Also, if the sponsoring organizations can afford to pay each kid $250-500, where the heck are they getting those funds, and why aren't they giving it to inner-city schools in the first place?

      Because throwing money at a problem doesn't automatically solve it. With all the bitching and moaning you hear about how much money wealthy suburban schools have to spend, study after study has shown that a long- or short-term influx of cash into a lousy school doesn't improve results. Ditto for transplanting students from lousy schools to wealthy schools - the students just don't improve that much. Money isn't the problem here, it is culture.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jambarama (784670)
        Someone asked me for a study on this point, so I'll post it here for inquiring minds. I only recall one study off the top of my head, though I know others are out there. You may know this already, but there are several economic journals dedicated to housing, labor, and poverty - they'd be a good start if you wanted to read more.

        The article is a bit dated - from 2004 - my apologies on that, I haven't kept up with more current research, if any exists, on this topic. Without further ado, the article is
  • by sckeener (137243) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:55PM (#28254221)
    My parents paid me $10 for As (I got $20s/class if I got straight As) $5 for Bs -$5 for Cs -$10 for Ds and if I got a F, it didn't matter what my other grades were. I got nothing. After they started doing that, I was getting straight As.
  • by MarkLR (236125) on Monday June 08, 2009 @03:20PM (#28254563)

    It was not a 40% improvement in individual scores. The article states that in some schools it was a 40% improvement in the number of kids meeting some exam standard. What the prior or new scores and what the standard is was not given. Paying may help but I doubt by 40%.

  • by DragonTHC (208439) <Dragon&gamerslastwill,com> on Monday June 08, 2009 @03:32PM (#28254757) Homepage Journal

    WTF?

    How is this worse than kids not learning in the first place?

    Most kids see no value in education because they're kids.

    Paying them, not only prepares them for life, it stresses the value of hard work and provides real results for that work.

    Kids learn both their curriculum and that working hard provides tangible returns.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by composer777 (175489) *

      I agree. Why is it that some of stupidest, most close-minded comments are coming from those that are promoting "education", or "intrinsic learning", whatever the hell that is. How exactly is getting paid "extrinsic", but being forced to do something without pay "intrinsic"?

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