“Novato High School sparked a minor controversy earlier this year by giving out iPads and iPhones in exchange for higher standardized test scores,” reports the Novato Patch in northern California. Low-performing students who raised their scores significantly were eligible for the raffle. High achievers were not.
Across the country, schools are trying to motivate students with goodies, cash and parties.
* A high school near Boston offering seniors a $1,200 laptop for good attendance and getting into college or the military.
* The Baltimore school system paying $110 to each high school student who improved their scores on the state graduation exams.
* Suburban Atlanta schools paying students $8 an hour for a 15-week “Learn & Earn” after-school study program.
* Dozens of Los Angeles high schools offering a boost in classroom grades for students who scored high on California standardized tests.
At San Jose Middle School, a feeder to Novato High, students with good attendance and behavior records can skip classes once a month to attend a carnival-like event called College Friday. September’s party featured a teacher dunk tank, jumpy houses, slides and snow cones.
At San Marin High School, Principal Adam Littlefield asks teachers to write personal notes of encouragement to students who are struggling. He’s also awarded certificates held ceremonies to honor hard workers. “I wouldn’t say that kids are gonna get an iPod or a car based on what they do,” he said.
Should we provide extrinsic rewards — such as money — to school students? Learning Matters is hosting a debate on the issue.