Money: Kids get it, Adults don’t—Brooklyn Experiments with the School System

money and test

Should kids earn money for testing well? 23 schools in Brooklyn hand out monetary rewards in exchange for high scores in math and reading. Mayor Bloomberg set up what he calls an ‘anti-poverty initiative’ with money raised from private sources such as the Rockefeller Foundation.

 

The Sparks Program aims to motivate students with cash rewards to do well on standardized tests. Each student receives $5 for each completed test and more money for higher scores. As best I can tell, 4th and 7 graders, those targeted by standardized state tests, are the only participants. Fourth graders can get up to $250 and seventh graders up to $500.

As a former teacher, my first reaction on reading the news that students were being paid up to $500 to perform well on tests was outrage (and a wee bit of jealousy–I would have like a bonus or two).

 

While reading more on the story, I discovered that a lot of thought and effort has been put into the program. “[It] is being designed and evaluated by Roland Fryer of Harvard University and the New York City Department of Education,” according to MDRC, a social policy research organization.

 

According to yesterday’s copy of the New York Daily News Brooklyn, Johnathan Neale, 12, told a reporter that, “It’s money. You want a lot of money, so you have to work hard for it.”

 

Another student Curtis Sooknanan, 12, said, “It’s like being paid to do a job.”

 

Although I’ve never approved of paying students for good grades, like most teachers, I do occasionally reward my own sons with small treats for accomplishing a task. And, I know my oldest son consistently strolled lackadaisically through the STAR tests. “Why bother, it doesn’t change my grade,” he declared. Perhaps rewarding students for taking tests and putting effort into them would at least produce more accurate and perhaps better test results.

 

Then I discovered something else, at the same time Mayor Bloomberg is putting money into students’ hands, he is advocating taking it away from the school systems. In an article that appears in the Jan. 26th edition of the NY Post, David Seifman writes that Mayor Bloomberg wants to slash $324 million from the 2009 school budget because it would be a “healthy” method of getting administrators to “review their priorities” and produce better results.

 

Let’s see, putting money in students’ hands increases productivity. Putting money in administrators’ hands decreases productivity. Seems like the ideology is flawed on one side or the other. Maybe Mayor Bloomberg ought to make up his mind. Even if he’s wrong he has the virtue of being consistent. Or, maybe the plan is to be right at least half of the time.

 

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17 comments

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  • I wish they had this when I was a wee little Brooklynite. I got good grades for free….man, was I a sucker.

  • I wish they had this when I was a wee little Brooklynite. I got good grades for free….man, was I a sucker.

  • Same, here, faust, I got good grades for free, too, and a royal scolding for anything less than a B!

    I’m not sure what I think of giving students money for good test scores. Would that encourage cheating? I’m thinking it would, at least in children inclined in that direction. In that case, they would be paying children to develop bad habits or break the law in the hopes of gaining reward.

  • Same, here, faust, I got good grades for free, too, and a royal scolding for anything less than a B!

    I’m not sure what I think of giving students money for good test scores. Would that encourage cheating? I’m thinking it would, at least in children inclined in that direction. In that case, they would be paying children to develop bad habits or break the law in the hopes of gaining reward.

  • My sister was two years ahead of me in school. She always got straight “A”s. She was a 4.0 student, lifetime California Scholarship Federation student. Blah, blah, blah, blah.

    When I started high school all the teachers were happy to see me and they were saying; “This is great we have another Branscomb, it is so nice to have good students”. I was sorry to have to tell them that my sister was the smart one… And I was the wise one, I didn’t put that much priority on “grades”.

    Kym, were did you teach school?

  • My sister was two years ahead of me in school. She always got straight “A”s. She was a 4.0 student, lifetime California Scholarship Federation student. Blah, blah, blah, blah.

    When I started high school all the teachers were happy to see me and they were saying; “This is great we have another Branscomb, it is so nice to have good students”. I was sorry to have to tell them that my sister was the smart one… And I was the wise one, I didn’t put that much priority on “grades”.

    Kym, were did you teach school?

  • Perhaps I’m more ol’fashioned and conservative than I think I am, but payin’ kids to do well in school strikes me as ill-advised. A quick personal & very recent story on motivating for school success. We took our old kid to an orientation at St Bernard’s last week where she’s planning on attending high school next year. When she mentioned she wanted to go to Boston College, their eyebrows raised and they told her she needed to do well on the StB placement tests and then get right on to their honors track…and do well to have a shot at a school like BC. That, plus seein’ how hard & well their girls’ basketball team plays, has impressed the heck out of her. So at least for the last week and a half, she’s knuckled down, been prompt and thorough with her homework, helpful around the house, and an all-round perfect kid, just cuz someone other than her folks told her she’d have to work hard to get where she wanted to go. Who knows how long that lasts, but me and the Mrs are smilin’ and encouraging her all the way. Seems a little positive encouragement and helping a kid achieve their dream still counts.

  • Perhaps I’m more ol’fashioned and conservative than I think I am, but payin’ kids to do well in school strikes me as ill-advised. A quick personal & very recent story on motivating for school success. We took our old kid to an orientation at St Bernard’s last week where she’s planning on attending high school next year. When she mentioned she wanted to go to Boston College, their eyebrows raised and they told her she needed to do well on the StB placement tests and then get right on to their honors track…and do well to have a shot at a school like BC. That, plus seein’ how hard & well their girls’ basketball team plays, has impressed the heck out of her. So at least for the last week and a half, she’s knuckled down, been prompt and thorough with her homework, helpful around the house, and an all-round perfect kid, just cuz someone other than her folks told her she’d have to work hard to get where she wanted to go. Who knows how long that lasts, but me and the Mrs are smilin’ and encouraging her all the way. Seems a little positive encouragement and helping a kid achieve their dream still counts.

  • Faust and Aunt Jackie, I was a “sucker” too. But, funny I don’t feel too cheated.

    Ernie, I was a teacher at Salmon Creek School from abt 97 to 2003. I think. . . I lost track. I taught a one room class that ranged from K-7th at times. I loved it. There are some great people and even greater kids up Salmon Creek.

    Bob, sounds like you’ve got a motivated kid. And I think you are doing a wonderful job with the positive encouragement (Just don’t let her hear about Brooklyn or she’ll go on strike for higher wages;>)

  • Faust and Aunt Jackie, I was a “sucker” too. But, funny I don’t feel too cheated.

    Ernie, I was a teacher at Salmon Creek School from abt 97 to 2003. I think. . . I lost track. I taught a one room class that ranged from K-7th at times. I loved it. There are some great people and even greater kids up Salmon Creek.

    Bob, sounds like you’ve got a motivated kid. And I think you are doing a wonderful job with the positive encouragement (Just don’t let her hear about Brooklyn or she’ll go on strike for higher wages;>)

  • Cutting the school budget will cut teachers and teaching tools like books and equipment. while that may be a priority in some circles, I believe it is a misguided priority.

    Paying students to take tests and score well will have more affect on children from affluent or semi-affluent stable home environments than it will on kids from difficult home environments. Primarily because children from better off home environments live with circumstances in which they may study. Children from more difficult circumstances do not and that is not likely to change with a cash incentive attached to tests. Those children will merely lose harder on the social equality ladder than they already do. Unless, I suppose, the idea is to encourage parents to encourage their children to study so the parents can take the kids’ test cash.

    Basically this all comes down to standardized testing and schools getting money for standardized testing. I see it as pretty much a lose lose situation if the people in charge keep getting government cash for testing instead of for educating while at the same time pulling more and more of the resources that are actually used to educate, i.e. teachers who teach and tools used to teach and learn, out of the system.

    I could be wrong.

  • Cutting the school budget will cut teachers and teaching tools like books and equipment. while that may be a priority in some circles, I believe it is a misguided priority.

    Paying students to take tests and score well will have more affect on children from affluent or semi-affluent stable home environments than it will on kids from difficult home environments. Primarily because children from better off home environments live with circumstances in which they may study. Children from more difficult circumstances do not and that is not likely to change with a cash incentive attached to tests. Those children will merely lose harder on the social equality ladder than they already do. Unless, I suppose, the idea is to encourage parents to encourage their children to study so the parents can take the kids’ test cash.

    Basically this all comes down to standardized testing and schools getting money for standardized testing. I see it as pretty much a lose lose situation if the people in charge keep getting government cash for testing instead of for educating while at the same time pulling more and more of the resources that are actually used to educate, i.e. teachers who teach and tools used to teach and learn, out of the system.

    I could be wrong.

  • I don’t really know enough to say but I motivate my kids to do well with something else. I let them know that they can be whatever they want to be IF they do well in school. If they don’t, they take away their own choices.
    My seven year old actually gets this. He’s pretty smart that way. I think he’d love the money though. LOL.

  • I don’t really know enough to say but I motivate my kids to do well with something else. I let them know that they can be whatever they want to be IF they do well in school. If they don’t, they take away their own choices.
    My seven year old actually gets this. He’s pretty smart that way. I think he’d love the money though. LOL.

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