17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Paying Kids for Good Grades

The Capital Gains program has been quite the hot topic in my neck of the woods.

What do you think about paying your kids for good grades? Would you ever consider doing it as a parent? Do you think that it is right for the DC schools to implement this program?

A little background: The DC school district is probably the worst public school district in the entire country. Currently, the DC schools also spend more money per pupil than any other district in the country. There have been many many ill-fated efforts to improve test scores, graduation rates...all the general indicators of healthy schools. Last year, the mayor hired a high powered, somewhat controversial school chancellor named Michelle Rhee and basically gave her unlimited power and resources to get the schools back on track.

Personally, I hope I don't ever have to pay my kids to get good grades, but the pragmatist in me won't allow me to say never. As a student, I never even thought to ask my parents to pay me for good report cards, but then again I was extremely competitive when it came to grades back in the day. I also came from a fairly priveleged background and from college educated parents. The connection between education and success was made in my mind at an early age.

Before you tear down this program too quickly, remember that the majority of kids in the DC schools come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Parent involvement has been a constant problem in the schools, and probably a main contributor to the current state of the schools. The connection between education and life success eludes many of these kids. However, a paycheck for attending, behaving and achieving in school is a concrete incentive.... and one that these kids will understand. Proponents of this plan believe that if cash incentives can help take ownership of their education in the short term, they will eventually be able to understand the lifelong rewards of an education over a lifetime.


  • Suzie Orman said no on Oprah yesterday
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 10/23/2008 08:17:00 PM  

  • When I was a sophomore in high school my parents offered a pretty significant financial incentive for me to turn my already good grades into great grades - and this moved my class rank in high school up dramatically. I ended up at an Ivy-League university, and I can say pretty definitively that without the initial offer, I would never have even known that I was capable of doing as well as I did.

    Of course, my younger bother got the same offer, and he just never cared enough to get the good grades.

    I think it really depends on the kid - I needed some extra motivation to live up to my full potential, but once I was there, the goals went beyond simply monetary gain.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 10/24/2008 04:30:00 AM  

  • I have heard about this program, and initially my answer was no as well. But after talking with an educator that understands where these types of kids are at(more than I do)- I say go for it! He was making the case that many of the families are so poor that they could really use the money.

    There is SO much money spent on so many programs, why not send it directly to kids who both desperately need it and could have thier entire futures changed by the motivating factor it may become.

    No, it won't work on everyone- but I would love to see how well it could do for those kids.
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 10/24/2008 07:01:00 AM  

  • I don't want to comment on the program specifically because I have not researched it.

    Generally speaking, though, I think motivation is important. I do not incentivize behavior I want/expect my kids to do naturally. I would not pay for chores or grades because those are a kids job and they will reap the natural rewards of their participation.

    Here is where I probably take it further than other parents: we do not participate in summer reading programs at the library because my kids should read for the love of it, not for the prize.
    posted by Anonymous ESO at 10/24/2008 07:19:00 AM  

  • Of course it won't work universally, but my parents paid me and my brothers for good grades, and I was valedictorian of my high school. I definitely wanted the money, so I worked hard for it. When you're a 3rd grader, college and jobs are too far in the future to be motivators, but I learned at a very young age that studying and working hard has tangible financial benefits.
    posted by Blogger Erin at 10/24/2008 12:42:00 PM  

  • lusciouschaos,

    Although I agree with much of what Suzie Orman says....Suzie Orman does not have kids!!!

    Anonymous, Very interesting story. Glad your parents found the right tool to motivate you. I agree though...it won't work for everyone. That is one of my problems with the program, it is a one-size-fits-all program...but really, there is no other way to do it on a large scale.

    Rachel H, I would say I am also a convert to the idea. Although I think its important to remember that the money goes directly into the student's account. Parents don't have access to the money unless the student decides. And the money isn't pennies...definitely enough to motivate any kid. I think it increases the amount of ownership over performance the student feels this way....especially if the parents are less than supportive about their children's education.

    eso, I completely agree with you in theory. However, I would argue that for kids who have parents who don't value education, the naturally incentived behavior does not occur. I think the schools are forever going to lose the battle of trying to show the worth of education without parental support. This is a way, however, imperfect, for kids to learn to value their education.

    I do worry about possible side effects from using money to increase desired behavior in kids....(ie) will cheating increase if kids don't have that love of learning yet? etc. etc.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 10/24/2008 12:52:00 PM  

  • I got paid for my grades... and was also valedictorian. My parents philosophy was, "This is your job right now". Worked for me. But, it may not motivate others...

    Anyways, I don't see why not at least try it and see the results. If it doesn't work, they don't have to pay, right? Seems like a win-win solution to me.
    posted by Blogger Biff at 10/25/2008 08:39:00 AM  

  • I like the "out of the box" thinking that this program represents. I suppose that in the abstract we want our kids to be motivated to learn just to learn, but the reality is that the main reason to get good grades is that good grades are important to later success in life. But it is hard for kids to look long-term, so this program just seems to bring the incentives for good grades within the kids' grasp. I have no problem with that.

    Will it work? Who knows until you try it. If implemented and then tracked correctly, the school should be able to compare the results with the costs quite easily.

    One obvious problem with such a program is that much of the cost will go toward paying kids who already get good grades. That part of the program will have to be treated as a fixed cost that doesn't produce any direct results. So the cost of raising one student's grades will include not just the cost of paying that student, but also an average cost of paying students who already would have performed well without the financial incentive. Still, in a program like this, the administrators should be able to calculate pretty accurately how much it cost to raise how many students grades. Then then can decide whether the program was worth it.

    Maybe it will work, maybe it won't. Either way, I like it.
    posted by Blogger Todd at 10/26/2008 08:44:00 AM  

  • The thing is, behavior modification through incentives like that generally only works really good for kids who are ready, willing, and able to do what they need to. Kids who don't care may show improvement in the beginning but not long term, and kids with special needs issues may be damaged further by being reminded that they can't act as they "should". I think there are just too many gray areas to make it an efficient use of public money/time.
    posted by Blogger Mo Mommy at 10/28/2008 09:09:00 PM  

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