GOOD

Should We Pay Kids To Go to School?


The days of "learning to love learning" may be behind us. These days, education reformers are coalescing around a kitchen sink approach to turning around failing schools, sagging graduation rates, and students who lag behind their international peers. As Michelle Rhee said this past weekend on This Week with Christiane Amanpour, there is no "one-shot, silver-bullet solution."

One of the ideas kicking around is cash incentives for both students and parents.


In St. Louis, a neighborhood school competing against charters and magnets, needing to boost its enrollment as much as its test scores, is offering $300 per child per semester to parents who send it their kids there (provided the student has exemplary attendance and that the parent attends three parent-teacher meetings). As noted on a recent post on Slate's doubleX blog, Houston pays some fifth graders for scoring well on a math test, and Detroit encourages parental involvement by incentivizing moms and dads to attend parent-teacher conferences.

Time magazine ran a piece in April detailing a large study of four cities' experiences with incentive programs run by Roland Fryer, a Harvard economist who runs an education innovation lab. In New York, students could earn up to $50 for their performance on 10 tests given throughout the school year. In Chicago, students earned money tied to their grades, netting $50 for an A, $35 for a B, and $20 for a C. (The money would go into an account that the student couldn't access until high school graduation.) In Washington, D.C., there was cash offered to middle schoolers for both scores on standardized tests, as well as attendance and good behavior in class. In Dallas, incentives were only offered for one young group of kids: second graders, who could earn $2 for each book they read.

And now for some results: New York students receiving money did no better on their tests. Students in Chicago also did no better on standardized tests, but they had better attendance and higher grades than unpaid kids. In D.C., incentivized students showed marked improvement on reading tests, as did the second graders in Dallas.

Why the disparity between systems?

One clue came out of the interviews Fryer's team conducted with students in New York City. The students were universally excited about the money, and they wanted to earn more. They just didn't seem to know how. When researchers asked them how they could raise their scores, the kids mentioned test-taking strategies like reading the questions more carefully. But they didn't talk about the substantive work that leads to learning. "No one said they were going to stay after class and talk to the teacher," Fryer says. "Not one."
\n
From that study, the evidence seems to point toward incentivizing basic behaviors that kids and their parents control: actually going to school, not bullying anyone, paying attention in class, etc. Rather than tying these monies to grades and test scores, by encouraging a better relationship between a student and his or her school or encouraging a student to read more, in general, seems to be a more effective method. So, in some cases, "yes," we should pay students (or their parents) to go to school—even though more experimentation like Fryer's needs to be done to get the exact right formula for incentives.
Fryer's study got me thinking: If the best way to nudge kids to perform better at school by acting on their attendance and on-campus behavior (rather than incentivizing test scores), shouldn't we look at teacher incentives the same way? Rather than attaching performance pay to test scores, why not look hard at something like Denver's ProComp system, which in part boosts teacher pay for work they do to make themselves better teachers, such as taking professional development courses?
Photo via Emily Rasinski for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.\n
Articles
via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
Science