Diplomas Count - June 5, 2014 - 14
EDUCATION WEEK JUNE 5, 2014
Diplomas Count > www.edweek.org/go/dc14
By Caralee J. Adams
With Tuition, Cash
But experts say money alone won't do the trick
he expectation of a paycheck motivates
many adults to work. Now, though, some
educators and policymakers are wondering:
Could an incentive of cash get students
to perform in school?
To answer that question, a growing number
of districts and schools across the country
have experimented with using financial
incentives in various ways to improve achievement. Some
have given $100 or more to students who score well on an
Advanced Placement test. Then there is the promise of a
college scholarship at an early age in hopes of encouraging
students to stay in school and succeed.
Money is indeed an enticing carrot. It sparks interest,
and in some cases, produces positive results. But it's hard
to know how much impact financial incentives alone have
on students' success. Often those initiatives are coupled
with added instruction for students, training for teachers,
and support from the community-and for good reason.
Cash can be part of a successful approach, but experts
say students also need motivated teachers to help them
and strategies to improve their performance. Some who
administer these programs are realizing the need for a
more comprehensive approach to ensure a better return
on their investment. Others are raising their program
eligibility standards to give scholarships to those most
likely to succeed. While some see money as a bribe that
threatens to dampen students' intrinsic motivation to
learn, it does seem to offer some potential for altering
students' behaviors, and policymakers are figuring out
just how to leverage it for the best results.
The College Readiness Program administered by the
National Math and Science Initiative includes giving $100
to students who get a 3 or higher (on a scale of 1 to 5) on
an AP exam-but their teachers get money, too, along with
professional development to improve their effectiveness
in the classroom.
"We don't believe incentives as a stand-alone moves
the needle, compared to a comprehensive approach, supporting
teachers and students with a whole bunch of interventions,"
said Gregg F. Fleisher, the chief academic
officer for the Dallas-based math and science initiative.
Results from the program, which started in six states and
is now in 22, found that, when lured with money, students
are more likely to risk the tough course.
The first year that schools participate in the NMSI
program, the number of students taking and passing
AP courses in mathematics, science, and English nearly
doubles. The increases are even greater for AfricanAmerican
and Latino students, said Mr. Fleisher.
The idea behind the program is to get students into AP
who may not have considered advanced work previously.
Telling students that they have the potential and that
they can earn money changes the game.
"Kids will invest in themselves when they know there
is a reward for that investment in time," said Karen M.
Morris, the program director of the AP Training and
Incentive Program Indiana. "It's an extrinsic reward to
help develop the intrinsic motivation down the line."
The incentive is an important piece of the puzzle that
conveys to students they are valued, but support is
needed because many of these students struggle and
need help learning to study, along with differentiated
instruction, said Ms. Morris.
C. Kirabo Jackson, a labor economist from Northwestern
University, in Evanston, Ill., evaluated an AP incentive
program in Texas and found that more low-income
and minority students took AP classes than in previous
years and more of them scored well. In addition, though,
the number of students in the school who made high
scores on the ACT and the SAT increased by 30 percent
and college-going rates went up 8 percent. Mr. Jackson
tracked students' performance in college and found that
students in the AP incentive program were more likely
than those who weren't to stay enrolled, have higher
grades, and complete a degree.
For any intervention to be effective, there needs to be
supports and infrastructure, said Mr. Jackson. Successful
learning is a collaboration between the student and
the teacher. "You need to know how to turn increased
efforts into outcomes," he said. "If you pay students in
the right conditions, it can be effective."
At Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., Bruce I. Sacerdote,
a professor of economics, is experimenting with a
program that includes cash incentives as part of a broader
mentoring program that pairs high school seniors with
Dartmouth students in an effort to guide the high school
students through the college application process.
"Cash incentives as a tool by themselves are less powerful
than we were hoping," said Mr. Sacerdote. "Cash
is getting people in the door." However, there is more
evidence that the intermediate steps of goal-setting and
in-person mentoring have the bigger impact.
Harvard University's Education Innovation Laboratory
conducted an experiment in Dallas, Chicago, Washington,
and New York, rewarding students with cash for
improvements in grades, test scores, literacy rates, and
behavior in 2007-09. While the results varied by region
with some positive effects, the researchers didn't find
the program helped close the achievement gap as much
as they'd expected, said Rucha Vankudre, the research
director at the lab. "We were looking for a significant efKids
will invest in themselves when
they know there is a reward for
that investment in time."
KAREN M. MORRIS
Program Director, AP Training and
Incentive Program Indiana
Schoolwork that is relevant to real-world challenges and life experiences
Fine arts courses
Teachers and school-based administrators
surveyed by the Education Week
Research Center feel that some strategies
for promoting student engagement and
motivation are more vital than others.
A majority of respondents (64 percent)
express a deep belief in the importance
of schoolwork that is relevant to realworld
challenges and life experiences.
But only 14 percent think incentive
programs are important.
SOURCE: Education Week Research Center, 2014
Career and technical education courses
Challenging and rigorous courses and assignments
Programs to connect students with careers and businesses
Programs to connect students with colleges and universities
Community service programs
Incentive programs to reward students for success
Diplomas Count - June 5, 2014
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