Monday, December 8, 2008

Bribery or Justifiable Incentive?

My son who is a senior in high school told me something interesting yesterday. He said that for the past year, one of the high schools in our county has been paying students $100 for each AP (Advanced Placement) exam they take if they receive a higher-than-average grade. And, the teachers in the AP classes get $100 per student if the student gets the good grade. That means some of the teachers could make up to $3000 per class (and most teach multiple classes).

My son said that the program has been such a success that it is going to be extended to all county high schools (9 of them). He said that he was told part of the money to fund the program comes from Exxon Mobil Corporation and some from the county’s education budget.

Something about this bothers me, though I am unable to put that into words yet. I do know that all state and local budgets are being cut, and I wonder what else might be cut so this payment program can continue. What do you think? Do other school districts do this type of thing?


Anonymous said...

I heard this on the radio the other day. It does seem like students of all ages should just do the work to feel the accomplishment of doing well and earning a good grade. I was never paid or given anything by my parents for good grades. They certainly did not believe in that.

I do think our schools are not teaching in a newer, up to date way to interest the youth of today. However, paying them for good grades does not seem like a good idea. So many people think they are entitled to everything without work or sacrifice. I imagine doing this will create even more people feeling they deserve payment for just doing what they should be doing to improve themselves.

Like you, I have to think about it more and would need to learn more about it. But, this is my first gut reaction. Can't wait to hear what you think.

Ashley's Mom said...

Marla, I agree with you. My first gut reaction was not positive, and I have seen too many kids already who think they should be paid for everything they do - even in tasks done for their families (e.g. raking leaves, keeping their rooms straight, etc.).

It's not the way I was raised, and I am concerned about the message we are sending to kids. What will happen when they are in the work force, doing a really good job, and due to economic factors, are denied a raise? Will they quit their job and move on, or will they starting doing less of a good job?

It just really worries me. I would also imagine that the teachers that don't have AP classes could be resentful...

little.birdy said...

I don't think there is anything wrong with offering students a small incentive to do well in their studies. A small gift certificate to a local restaurant, a pizza party, a fun & educational field trip...those are the incentives that I have in mind. Some high schools are extremely competitive, and hours upon hours of brain-crunching work goes into preparing for those tests. A hundred dollars, not really appropriate, in my opinion. It puts unnecessary emphasis on the test and takes it away from the learning. And I have some ethical issues with the teachers getting paid too.

MB said...

I think this is encouraging kids to take AP classes who aren't qualified. At least when I was in high school, it was supposed to be like an honors class, for kids who had the desire and skill to excel in academics at the college level. Not to mention if you did really well you could usually earn several credit hours and save yourself or your parents a TON of college tuition.

Anonymous said...

Brings to mind Alfie Kohn's book, Punished by Rewards. Probably taking 90% of the kids who are internally motivated and externalizing their motivation. Basically killing their ambition. Ick.

Cale said...

I sort of like the idea.
I took 13 APs in high school, and if I had gotten $100 each I could have paid for three semesters of books out of pocket.
Might it push kids who aren't prepared for AP into it? Maybe. But at the same time it may lead to a better sorting program. If only kids who get 4s and 5s get the cash, teachers will want to focus their efforts on making sure the capable kids get the highest possible grades, rather than dumbing down the class so that all kids can survive it.
I can see the killing internal motivation aspect, but at the same time, these are AP kids. Their life is forced forward by an astounding internal motivation, and I think that should certainly be rewarded with a few hundred dollars.