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Paying Students for Grades: Are we cheapening education?

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Paying Students for Grades:  Are we cheapening education?Is merit pay for students common sense or a disaster waiting to happen? 

Teachers have always sought out new and effective ways to motivate students, but now business leaders are getting involved. With private funding, schools across the country are testing a new strategy: paying students for good grades and higher test scores.

According to an Ed Week blog, a new study done in connection with Boston College and the Educational Testing Service shows that NAEP scores went up when students were either paid to take the test or paid to do well.

"In the end, the study found, both of the monetary incentives spurred students to do better than they might have otherwise, although the second condition, in which part of the payout hinged on the students getting answers correct, proved to be the stronger incentive. Under both conditions, though, scores for both male and female students were, on average, at least 5 points higher than the scores for the no-incentive group." Read full article

 

The business community also supports this foray into incentivising student achievement. USA Today got the lowdown from CEO’s on the subject:

"Incentives are the tools we use to generate self-motivation," says Graham Barnes, CEO of Concerro, a San Diego company that helps manage shift work for nurses. He pays his children, ages 15, 11 and 8, to complete homework and rewards them with trips and computers for report cards with straight A's.
….
More than half of the 74 CEOs, chairmen and presidents surveyed last month by USA TODAY said they think paying for grades is a good idea. When asked if they pay, or have paid, their own kids for grades, 33 of 66 said yes.

http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2008-09-10-pay-for-grades_N.htm 

As an initial reaction, I want to shoot this idea down as a cheapening of education and devaluing the value of learning in itself. But if I was still in school, I’d want the money… (though I was a nerd who couldn’t stand to get a B). A poll taken in January showed that only 37% of people support the movement, according to CBS News. There have also been studies that show merit pay for students to be unsuccessful.

On the other hand, I can see the possibility of this “incentive-pay” helping students who have to work after school. They could have more time to study if they could count on that money. 

There are just sooo many questions this raises:

  • Will cheating upgrade from being a problem to being an epidemic?
  • Will education become even more about tests and testing?
  • What schools should run these programs?
  • Where will the money go? Will it be given directly to students or to parents?
  • Will it even work?
  • With such tight budgets, is there even funding for such programs?

What’s your take? Share your opinion in the comments section!