A California special education teacher wants to qualify an initiative to give $1,000 to parents of students who score proficient or higher on all sections of California’s state exam. Billie Jo Aldrich-Fallert, who teaches at Porterville High School, says students don’t try hard on the test because it has no consequences for them. The measure could cost more than $1 billion.

For a few years, California offered a $1,000 scholarship to students in grades nine through 11 who aced state exams, but the money ran out.

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  1. Ah, yes, yet another brainwave from one of the droids who’ve transformed the California public school system into one of the wonders of the world; a black hole that can swallow $55B per year without emitting any results.

    Any thought to attaching consequences to the test? Or how about penalizing teachers for students who don’t score well, and rewarding them for those who do? As long as it’s a zero-sum game, that would be fine with me. Any other ideas? No, probably not, don’t want to strain themselves.

    Education is a serious business, but we’re stuck with droids like this one who thinks it’s fine to bribe kids with taxpayers’ money so that she can look good.


  2. Speaking as one of those droids:

    “Or how about penalizing teachers for students who don’t score well, and rewarding them for those who do?”

    This is one of the worst ideas I’ve heard in a long time, and the major flaw of the NCLB Act. Teachers do not get to choose their students, they are assigned to them. It is the one variable that we cannot control. You are basically stating that I should be judged based on the motivation of my students. Teachers already compete for the cushy teaching assignments, this would only make it worse.

    Now I don’t support bribing students to do their jobs, but that teacher at least was attempting top address the biggest problem in education today, students who don’t care and won’t try.

  3. How about doing something smart, say like…making the kids pass the exam in order to get a diploma??? That’s what we’ve done here in Texas, and believe me, the kids take the test a lot more seriously!

  4. Andy Freeman says:

    No one has control over their inputs, but outside of public education, it is generally accepted that folks are responsible for their outputs.

    Public school advocates “forget” that we pay for public school to make a difference in student achievement. Why is it unreasonable to judge it on that basis?

  5. Right idea, wrong solution. If kids aren’t motivated by their parents or peers, there isn’t much a teacher or school can do to change their attitude. Spending more public money to try and motivate “non-motivated” students when all of the past money hasn’t worked is futile.

    Gahrie–I feel for you in some regard. A teacher’s success has a lot to do with the quality of their students. The best teacher in the world will have a hard time getting results from a classroom of “failures”. However, NCLB and other measures were implemented because the teachers union refused to accept any responsibility for their members. I don’t have a cut and dry solution, but we need to find a way to separate the good from the bad among our precious teachers.

  6. Steve in Broomfield wrote:

    If kids aren’t motivated by their parents or peers, there isn’t much a teacher or school can do to change their attitude.

    Au contraire. Motivation isn’t quite that simple a quantity.

    Here’s the exception that I have bookmarked but the literature is full of instances of kids who, under the influence of a really good teacher, achieve all out of proportion to what their background would indicate they’re capable of.

    But the inobvious factor that needs to be appreciated about the story I linked of low socio-economic status kids kicking the asses, academically speaking, of rich, privileged, motivated kids is where the story appears: in the popular press not in the education industry press.

    In any other industry a performance breakthrough would have the industry press beating a path to your door but in the education industry the Jaime Escalante’s and Marva Collins’ only achieve notoriety in the popular press. That doesn’t cinch the case for the point I’ve been pounding away at – that excellence has no meaning in public education – but it is an indicator of how excellence is viewed by professional industry watchers, the trade press. Excellence simply isn’t an important part of their view of the industry. That’s not a slam on the industry press, they’re simply reflecting the feedback from their readers.

    As far as this particular proposal….here’s my reaction.

  7. Why not motivate them by offering to reward good performance with an accelerated curriculum? It should be cheaper than offering cash.

    For students who can follow a self-paced program, while demonstrating more progress at less expense than under a traditional course, it seems insane not to offer the alternative.

  8. Actually in many fields, people do have control of their inputs.

    A furniture producer might choose not to buy a given type of wood. In other cases, a product might sell at a lower price because it’s made from less reliable raw materials.

    In cases where differences in inputs are known, the expectations for outcomes may change; a company might not have the same sales performance standards in different markets, for example.

    It seems to make sense to acknowledge this in education, but politicians and educrats are afraid to. Who gets re-elected telling the public that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?

    What seems interesting to me about this idea in California is that it might motivate parents to work with their kids at home to improve performance.

    In the worst scholastic cases, it’s often the parent involvement that would make the difference. Maybe a yearly cash payout would be more of an incentive than the intangible benefits of education.

    I don’t think it should replace teacher accountablity measures, but some parents apparently needs an incentive.

  9. Katherine C says:

    I can’t tell you how many problems I see with this idea. I see a great incentive for kids to try to cheat, and for their parents to help them. I see once again people wanting to hoist all of the responsibility for a student’s performance onto one person who is not the student but in the meanwhile putting kids in a horrible position where they’re incredibly stressed out because of the stakes. I see immense amounts of money, the kind of money I never received in my life except as part of my grants for attending college, being given out to people who may or may not have had anything to do with the results and whose children might not get one cent of it though they did the work. I see kids even earlier than they are now falling into the education is worthless except for monetary rewards mode. My gosh, I don’t understand how people come up with these things! Yes, parents and parental support can be very important in their children’s education but this is not the way to get it.

  10. ragnarok says:


    Students who don’t care and won’t try should be allowed to fail. Similarly for teachers, otherwise it would be only too easy for teachers to shirk their responsibilities by getting rid of kids without making a real effort.

    What sort of message would we send by paying parents for a student’s passing grade? That after he’s graduated we’ll pay him to apply for a job? That if he gets a job we’ll pay him to keep it?

    Where in all this ridiculous New Age Non-Think is the idea that people should work hard and succeed (and sometimes fail)? That sometimes self-esteem can stop you from trying hard? That competition within limits can be good?

    When I was doing my grad work (Computer Science), there were about 30 grad students; 2 were native-born Americans, the rest were foreign students (including me).

    Don’t you think there’s something wrong when so few Americans go into such a desireable (at the time) field?

  11. I do fail students who don’t try. Two years ago I failed 118 out of 196 students. Last year I failed 92 out of 165 students. The determining factor in 99% of the cases was the failure to do homework and classwork. Several of those who failed each year actually passed the assessments because I forced them to pay attention while I was teaching.

    When I talk to the parents, many of them know their kids aren’t doing any work and don’t care. I have had them tell me that they never went to school past the third grade in Mexico and that they are doing OK, so what is the big deal? My students come from some of the lowest demographics out there. But some of them are incredibly motivated and competitive about their education and others are just marking time until they can drop out.

  12. ragnarok says:


    I’m glad you’re holding their feet to the fire, though they may not appreciate it.

    A large part of the problem is that “[the parents] are doing OK, so what is the big deal?”. Similarly for union jobs; absent the fear that failure will have real and very painful consequences, there isn’t much to motivate most people. Can this often be cruel? Yes. Do we know of a better system? Not that I know of.

    My $0.02.

  13. A good teacher can be quite inspirational and inspire a love of learning in kids that are receptive to this at all. OTOH, cultural factors may be dooming some kids from the start – if their parents and neighbor kids actively discourage studying, I can’t see any way you are going to get those children to learn much. It might be better to kick them out of school young to start working at menial jobs, and see if a few years of that plus some distance from family and peers changes their opinion of education.

    However, there are teachers and schools that get greatly better results from quite similar incoming students. It’s evident that rather than trying to find out what makes these teachers and schools better and emulate them, the NEA, the education colleges, and many administrators and teachers prefer to just whine about how they get such lousy students and aren’t paid twice as much.

    A small hint: Real professionals take responsibility for the job they do with the available inputs. Real professionals expect their pay to vary with the quality of their outputs. Real professionals don’t depend on a union to guarantee their jobs.

  14. You can lead a horse to water…. Stop wasting resources trying to educate everyone, especially those who hate it and would rather be somewhere else. Make school attendance voluntary.

    There are really three kinds of people:
    A) The unmotivated ones who resent education;
    B) The brilliant unconventional ones who can go their own way;
    C) The normal average ones.

    Groups A and B don’t belong in anything resembling a conventional school, and may be damaged by it, or damage others. Group B needs Ph.D. mentors more than B.Ed. teachers.