Tell Us: Should students be paid to excel? (

An article in the New
York Times
last week described a pilot program in New York City public schools that provides
monetary incentives to students for meritorious performance on standardized
tests. Since the beginning of the school year, the district has distributed $500,000
to 5,237 students in 58 schools.

Read the article at
and tell us what you think of the

According to the article, New York is only one of a number of school
districts experimenting with incentive programs like the one designed by
Harvard economist Rolan G. Fryer. Baltimore, Maryland, is considering similar
measures to improve test scores. And if the initiative is successful in New York, you can bet
that cities across the country will follow suit.

There are many vital issues to consider:
Effectiveness: Can
the program prove successful in boosting test scores in both the short and long

Ethics: Does
the end justify the means? Is this the appropriate message to be sending to

Are there any
unintended consequences that should be considered?

My own reaction to the program parallels that of New York school
Principal Barbara Slatin: initial skepticism and repulsion, tempered by mild
optimism and curiosity. It seems to me that there must be alternative methods to
enhance student performance, not based on cash incentives. I’d like think the
education system can provide fun, engaging learning experiences and articulate
the value of a well-rounded education—beyond standardized test outcomes—to
students. The optimal solution, that
will be effective over the long-term, is it to get students excited about
education and the process of learning. And well-designed, comprehensive,
engaging and personally relevant geographic classes that teach students about
their world, its wonders and challenges, are a great place to start. And maybe throw in a gold star or two.

Sarah for My Wonderful World


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5 thoughts on “Tell Us: Should students be paid to excel? (

  1. Should we pay citizens for stoping at a red light?No and this purley perfunctory and un anilitical system will only hurt students in the long run when the funds run out.

  2. This is an interesting experiment that should not be dismissed out of hand. It might spur an initial interest in academics, followed by a self-motivated genuine interest in learning.
    It likely is not a long term solution. However, as an initial limited method for encouraging students’interest in academics, it might be worth pursuing and its potential should be closely monitored.

  3. I don’t necessarily like the precedent this plan sets. Especially, as the previous commenter stated, if the program’s main concern is standardized testing. Too often our educators “teach to the test” which I feel can be counterproductive towards long-term education.
    Just based on my own experiences over the past year as a college instructor, I really try to put it upon my own shoulders to engage students. ENTHUSIASM is contagious; if teachers make learning fun and demonstrate their passion for the material at hand, it will rub off on the students. Then, maybe, they will become students for life. And isn’t that what we all should strive to be?

  4. If the incentives were for improving grades, I would consider this something I might consider supporting. It is, however, aimed at increasing the already too-narrow focus on high-stakes testing.
    Such a focus is pernicious in several ways. As a college professor, I work with young people with limited curiosity and attention span, who cannot remember basic facts that I know they must have learned for exams in the past. I think the proposal described here would just make a bad situation worse.

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