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Chicago ‘Pay For Grades’ Pilot Program

What do you think about paying your kids to get good grades? How’s fifty bones for an A sound? That’s right, fifty dollars seems to be the going rate for an A. B’s will cost you $35 and a C forces you to give up that portrait of Mr. Andrew Jackson in your wallet or purse.

Now, what do you think about the state or school district paying kids for good grades? A Chicago public schools pilot program is doing just that. [3] And the pilot program has a clever name too – Green for Grade$:

Up to 5,000 freshmen at 20 Chicago public high schools will get cash for good—and even average—grades as part of a new, Harvard-designed test program that city education leaders are rolling out Thursday.

Students will be measured every five weeks in math, English, social sciences, science and physical education. An A nets $50, a B equals $35 and a C still brings in $20. Students will get half the money upfront, with the remainder paid upon graduation. A straight-A student could earn up to $4,000 by the end of his or her sophomore year.

I think it’s an idea worth investigating and a pilot plan is a good way to do it. The $2M in funds come from private sources, so it’s not taxpayer money, and this is the type of plan that you can’t dismiss or accept without testing it out.

Some don’t like the idea of paying students for performing well in school because it sends the wrong message. I think it sends the right message. Many student work hard in high school because they see it as a stepping stone for college or a vocational school. They work hard in college or a vocational school because those good grades and skills will get them a job. That job will pay them. That pay is in part dependent on their grades in school. This simply shifts the incentive earlier and gets students engaged at a point where a difference can be made. They will work hard to get better grades so they can get paid for it today, perhaps those grades will translate to a pay day when they graduate.

I agree that it’s not ideal. The ideal would be for a student to want good grades because it’s implicitly important to them, not because they can get $50 for an A. We must face the realities of the situation. The reality is that many of these students are disengaged, they are there because they are required to be there. They do just enough to move through the system until they’re old enough to leave it.

This will also help teachers because it will turn a percentage of disengaged students into engaged ones and those teachers will be more effective at their jobs. Rather than trying to get someone’s attention or battling with a student that’s actively disruptive, they can focus on teaching – this benefits all the other students.

What do you think about this program? Love it? Hate it? Curious to see what happens? I’m very curious to see what happens but this isn’t the type of program that will yield results immediately so we’ll all have to be patient, regardless of our feelings. In the end, I think the test will be well worth it.

(photo: dospaz [4])