Saturday, April 21, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Should the school district reward students for good grades?

“Mom, did you know there is a school district paying students for attendance, behavior and grades?" asked Kourtnie, my 15-year-old, almost with a glimmer of Can we move, Mom? in her eye.

I didn't know this, and immediately wondered what triggered this little tidbit of discovery. She said it was part of a debate discussion in her economics class.

I asked her which side she was on, as if I didn't already know.

"I think it's a great idea," Kourtnie said. "I know people think we should just want to do good because it's our future. And, I understand that's the way it's always been and people resist change.

"But, of all the people that believe that, not one of them would go to work without receiving a paycheck. Most people work harder and perform better with an incentive. Money is an incentive. And it's how the real world is motivated. So, I don't see a problem with it."

Those are all great points that I can't argue.

I, for one, like the idea. I just don't like giving them money without reason.

One time, I was asked for $20 and the next words out of their mouth were, "I cleaned my room and came home with a positive attitude."

I knew I disappointed my cute, negotiating offspring when I replied, "And those are things I expect you to do without bribes."

I don't like paying for chores, because that is categorized under "Parts of life that we all hate but must be done." I'm not paid for laundry, dishes and mopping. I am paid to go to work, which I equate with going to school.

My parents paid me for good grades: only A's, and there was a bonus if I got straight A's. It kept me focused and suddenly less distracted. I never looked at it as though I got something I didn't deserve. I felt like I earned it and it was a win-win for everybody.

Now a plethora of problems could arise by bringing the school board into the equation.

How would this be funded? What would the criteria be? What about teachers who are already underpaid — how would they feel?

But what if the incentive was enough to alleviate just some of the problems that make their jobs more difficult?

I perused Google, looking for a specific school board that offered pay for grades. There is an abundance of information to sift through, some schools trying it, many debates regarding it and several studies about it.

Although the offering of money didn't always result in the payoff the school expected, the performance improved in almost every case.

Students had better attendance, improved focus and earned better report card grades.

A Harvard study indicated when school districts offered incentives for the aforementioned areas, there was always an improvement. However, when an incentive was offered for better test scores, the results didn't yield the expected outcome.

They think it's because students don't know how to study and/or prepare properly for tests. They know how to get up, show up, behave and do the work in class. But tests are tricky.

Still, wouldn't those improvements make teachers' jobs easier?

As expected, there were those students who were not motivated in any capacity by the monetary incentive. So nothing changes for them. Traditional ways of dealing with students who failed to comply would still be enforced.

But, I would have to believe that even if only 50 percent of the students became more engaged, the benefits to classroom and teacher would be worth it.

Then again, I am still supplying glue, hand sanitizer, paper plates, dry-erase markers and copy paper to my school district.

I don't think I have to worry about debating the pros and cons of grade pay in the football stands anytime soon.

Heather Tempesta is a Brandon single mother of two sons, 17 and 10, and a daughter, 15.

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