Pay for attendance

Forget about learning for its own sake. A Boston-area high school will pay students $25 per quarter for perfect attendance. They’ll get the money if they graduate. This is a trend, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

(Chelsea High School) joins a number of districts throughout the country turning to incentives to boost test scores, GPAs, and student turnout.

Some schools, like Chelsea High, are focused solely on attendance. Officials there maintain that they can’t carry out their mission if a student is not in class absorbing the material. Others are doling out gift certificates, coupons, and checks if students earn straight A’s or land on the honor roll.

I had perfect attendance in fourth grade. Mr. Parker, my favorite all-time teacher, gave me a gold-painted plastic cup he’d won in a dance contest at the Hotel Fontainebleu in Miami Beach. I displayed it with pride on my dresser. I wonder what happened to it. But it was an after-the-fact award. You have to wonder what message it sends students when a school tells them the only thing of value they can get in school is cash. And $25 a quarter isn’t much of a bribe.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Tom West says:

    Okay, I’ll bite. How can one so enthusiastic about incentives for teachers and yet so down on the same incentives (money) for students. (Not only that, this blog usually praises educational experiments…)

    I know, kids should be *grateful* to learn as they are building for their future. But realistically, I suspect that the students most in need of improvement look upon school as a job, except that they don’t get paid.

    So, as we’ve determined that we need to educate kids who can’t see any value in education, incentives for the children are certainly one thing that can be tried.

    I remember being shocked 25 years ago when I read about an experiment that rather dramatically increased student performance by simply paying for ‘A’s (and a much lower price for ‘B’s.) Of course, in the letters to the editor, economists seemed entirely unsuprised.

  2. This isn’t new. It comes up every now and then and people get all shocked and scandalized and then it goes away again. The Renaissance program was very, very popular for awhile. We still have its remnants in my building — mostly little rewards for good test scores, perfect attendance, high gpa’s, etc.

  3. ragnarok says:

    Tom West said:

    “Okay, I’ll bite. How can one so enthusiastic about incentives for teachers and yet so down on the same incentives (money) for students.”

    One’s pay for work, the other’s a bribe. As Joanne says, what sort of message does this send? That they can get education degrees and come up with exciting ideas like this?

  4. Richard Nieporent says:

    Tom,

    One of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes (Too bad there aren’t any more comic strips like this around) is when Calvin announced to his father that he should be paid for getting good grades: $20 for an A, $10 for a B, $5 for a C and $1 for a D. His father was shocked by his request and told him he was not going to pay him to get good grades. Later, Calvin told Hobbes, too bad he wouldn’t go for it. I could have made a quick $4.

  5. If I was going to school now, I’d be overjoyed if the school actually paid the unmotivated (and anti-motivated) kiddies to not bother attending. School would be much smarter, cleaner, quietier, and safer. This bribe might even cost less than money spent on scrubbing away graffiti and blood-stains, replacing broken windows, installing metal detectors and cameras, hiring security guards, etc.

  6. georgelarson says:

    Good Show Beeman. You knocked that one right out of the park. It would be cheaper to bribe the uninterested not to attend and make school better for the motivated than try to bribe the uninterested to change behavior.

    Of course the only reason I had good grades was most of my classmates pulled down the curve so much I looked good by comparison

  7. Tom West says:

    One’s pay for work, the other’s a bribe.

    Depends. For the type of students who are in need of incentives in order to do the necessary work, school *is* work with a pay rate of zero (and mandatory to boot!). If the teachers were paid zero, one would hardly fault them for lack of effort. Why would the students be any different?

    (Note that in general, we consider bribery evil because one is paying someone to do a job they chose voluntarily. I’m not certain that forced labour (as the students may see it) would be considered the same situation. Likewise, given that people are implicity agreeing to give employers their best effort when they accept a job, isn’t providing incentives to motivate people to actually provide that effort also bribery? The whole concept of merit pay is get people to produce results they would not have produced otherwise…

    I’d be overjoyed if the school actually paid the unmotivated (and anti-motivated) kiddies to not bother attending.

    That is, of course, a much larger question. There’s no doubt that educational achievement would be greatly improved (for the rest of the students) by the elimination of some percentage of the student body. The key is, of course, that our society will not countenance writing off children as essentially dead ends. Given that society requires schools to make an honest effort to educate *every* child, regardless of the child’s desires, we are left with the question of how to go about it.

    This experiment didn’t seem to me an automatic failure. I’d be quite curious to see the results.

  8. ragnarok says:

    Well, Tom, perhaps it’s time to be slightly less politically correct.

    In just about every country whose educational rigour we fear, kids have the freedom to fail. This is a necessary part of the selection process. By interfering with it we create a sub-class whose members view handouts and bribes as a divine right. They want, want, want, but they won’t do even once. Worst of all, this idiotic situation is perpetuated by well-meaning do-gooders with the help of people like Jesse Jackson, who know only too well how the game is played.

  9. I’m going to keep these comments in mind next time the blog is decrying the dropout rate.

  10. There’s no doubt that educational achievement would be greatly improved (for the rest of the students) by the elimination of some percentage of the student body.

    Problem is, it’s not politically correct. This applies even to constructive segregation, not so much by race and class; but by talent, motivation, and vocation. And even ethics.

    The key is, of course, that our society will not countenance writing off children as essentially dead ends.

    Or not treating intelligent motivated children as criminals and heretics, priming them for suicide, while at the same time giving real criminals their just desserts.

    Industrial societies also have this article of faith, that every child needs to be educated exactly the same way, and that “school” and “education” are one and the same. They are not, no more than “church” and “religion” are the same.

    Given that society requires schools to make an honest effort to educate *every* child, regardless of the child’s desires,

    Or the child’s needs.

    we are left with the question of how to go about it.

    There is a difference between giving every child the opportunity for education, and forcing that opportunity on them. Unfortunately, that seems to be lost on the masses, and the political elites that pull their strings.

    If there are Children Left Behind, to use a Bushism, they are the brilliant unconventional ones. For these, a normal school, filled with so-called normal people, is the last thing they need.

  11. ragnarok says:

    Of course, RCC. Presumably you’ll also take into account the rather substantial number of kids who graduate from high school, but shouldn’t under any reasonable standard.

    Don’t you want kids to take pride in having worked hard and achieved something? Not the same as bribing them and teaching them how to game the system, e.g., a kid feeling that he’s dong well because his school pays him $30 per quarter, not the $25 the other school pays.

  12. I haven’t stated whether I’m for or against pay-for-attendance programs, have I?

    I would love to live and teach in Lake Wobegone (sp?). Wouldn’t you?

  13. ragnarok says:

    RCC, when you said “I’m going to keep these comments in mind next time the blog is decrying the dropout rate.”, I assumed that you didn’t agree with my comments. Was I wrong?

    As for “I would love to live and teach in Lake Wobegone (sp?). Wouldn’t you?”, Lake Wobegon, where “all the children are above average” has overflowed its banks and flooded most of the country. Aren’t we constantly told that “every child is special, every child is a winner”?

    So you see, you’re already teaching in Lake Wobegon!

  14. I just find it kind of funny that the response to one post is that we need to pay the unmotivated students to stay home, but next time Joanne posts something about the drop out rate, people will be up in arms over that. Either you want the bottom 20% in the schools or you don’t. Make up your mind. Remember that is the law that we keep them if they choose to stay.

  15. RCC wrote:

    I just find it kind of funny that the response to one post is that we need to pay the unmotivated students to stay home, but next time Joanne posts something about the drop out rate, people will be up in arms over that.

    Reading back through the thread, the only poster who suggested paying kids not to show up was georgelarson. So, there’d be no inconsistency if everyone but georgelarson was up in arms about the drop out rate, right?

    What I find absolutely hilarious is notion that the kids you’d pay to keep out of school wouldn’t be willing to pay to get out.

    You know, I might be onto something here.

    With the continuous whining about inadequate funding this seems like a perfect meeting of the minds. For kids who don’t want to attend school, charge ’em for the privilige of not attending. They don’t want to be there and they can find money for expensive athletic shoes, why not make them contributing members of society?

    For say, $5 per day, they don’t have to dodge a truancy officer – am I being unintentionally funny again? – and the public schools get both a new revenue stream and rid of a problem.

    Either you want the bottom 20% in the schools or you don’t. Make up your mind.

    This challenge was issued to georgelarson, right?

    Remember that is the law that we keep them if they choose to stay.

    Oh yes, the law.

    Actually, what the law, in general, says is that they have to show up until age sixteen or a truancy officer will show up to enforce the law. It’s only at sixteen that personal choice becomes a consideration.

    Before age sixteen all you have to be is a big enough pain in the ass and you’ll get transfered from one school to another until it becomes clear that showing up is purely voluntary and a tacit agreement is reached between the kid in question and the authorities who, by law, are supposed to keep him in school.

    So much for the law.

  16. With the continuous whining about inadequate funding this seems like a perfect meeting of the minds. For kids who don’t want to attend school, charge ’em for the privilige of not attending. They don’t want to be there and they can find money for expensive athletic shoes, why not make them contributing members of society?

    Something like this might actually work. Consider it a buy-out program.

    Actually, what the law, in general, says is that they have to show up until age sixteen or a truancy officer will show up to enforce the law. It’s only at sixteen that personal choice becomes a consideration.

    Declare these punks to be homeschooled. Of course this is an insult to real homeschoolers, but it does make a legal loophole.

  17. “Self-directed learning”?

  18. georgelarson says:

    As long as states reimburse school districts by attendance or enrollment. I do not think we have to worry about schools paying students not to attend school. How about states pay the school districts only for each educated student they produce?

  19. I’ve always had a problem with schools who give awards for perfect attendance. That only encourages kids to come to school when they are sick and infecting other students. Students who are sick don’t pay as much attention as those who are healthy. Paying students for perfect attendance only further encourages students to come to school ill. Kids who would be better off staying home and/or going to the doctor might decide to tough it out at school so they won’t lose their $25.

    This plan also sends the wrong message to kids. Going to school shouldn’t be seen as something you only do for money. Rather, it should be seen as a place to go to further your education.

    When Massachusetts taxpayers pay their school taxes, I’m sure they expect the money to go toward educating students, not be given to students to buy video games, etc.