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Paying Kids for Doing...

Paying Kids for Doing Well on Tests. What Message Are We Sending?

Though my husband and I choose flights that allow us to accumulate mileage on American Airlines and I remember the euphoria of finally acquiring enough Blue Stamps to get a blender, I wince when I hear parents bribe their children, and was disturbed by the front page story in today’s New York Times about public school students being rewarded monetarily for scoring well on tests. Teachers, too, the students will learn from this story (unless they’re not compensated for reading the news) that their teachers, too, stand to receive a bonus for improved test scores.

What message are we giving these kids? Is doing well not enough of a reward? Is there not a better way to place a value on learning? If the reward system works, has anyone considered awarding points to the kids and letting them donate their earnings to a cause more worthwhile than getting new I-pods for themselves? Wouldn’t we all take pride in seeing a hospital pavilion or shelter come out of this experiment with a plaque reading, “A gift of the students of P.S. 188?”

The amount cited in the story, somewhere in the $30 range, may serve to motivate students whose parents aren’t already doling out an allowance comparable to an entry level job, but we should consider how this reward system might impact on private school students, who’ll need to be rewarded with stock portfolios and their own villas in St. Bart’s.

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