Solution to Failing Schools Problem.

I just thought of something that could be an answer to the failing schools problem in poor/ghetto neighborhoods:

Instead of throwing money at the teachers, make money an incentive for the students to attain/maintain good grades. Students can have a base salary for attending classes. If they don’t show up, then they don’t get paid. Let’s say make it $50/day.

Then, they get a certain amount for submitting homework. No homework, no pay. The pay can be on a sliding scale related to the quality of the homework.

Lastly, an amount given related to test performance, a bonus given to class rank, another bonus to extracurriculars.

Has anyone thought about this solution before? I think it would boost student performance, especially in poor neighborhoods.

Any input?


Didn’t google “pay students for grades,” I take it? It doesn’t seem to raise grades, though a few more kids do go on to college.

How much will you pay me to give a well-thought-out answer to this?

Its a great idea until people realize that statistically speaking the poor stupid kids will make less than the not so poor not so stupid kids. The ones doing good wont bitch too much, but the ones (and their families) doing poorly (heh) will raise holly hell.

However, I think paying students a tiny bit to actually just come to class and BEHAVE, might be workable and have a net positive result. A poor stupid kid might not ever do as well as someone better off than him, but if he sits there and behaves (which aint that hard) he might actually learn something and be less disruptive to the class in general. A win win for everyone.

In my school district we offer kids $100 for each science, math, or English AP exam they pass. It seems to have had a dramatic effect–scores have risen steadily over the last 15 years since the program started. However, as a cynical doper, I wonder about correlation vs causation. History and foreign language pass rates have also risen in that time period and I really wish someone would do a study to see if the pass rates in the courses with the incentives have risen at a significantly higher rate.

I teach one course that pays an incentive (English) and one that doesn’t (Economics). The kids are certainly aware of the difference, but I am not sure how much a difference it makes in their behavior. Some probably work a little harder because of it.

iMHO, the March 15th Newsweek cover was spot on with the best solution. It said “We must fire bad teachers.” (repeated over and over on a blackboard)

If a student is committed to learning, with the resources available today, you won’t be able to stop him.

If a student is uninterested in learning there is no such thing as a “good” teacher.

If my kid brother did not have me to help him with physics and math, he wouldn’t have been a successful engineer today. He was highly motivated and committed to learning, but his physics and math teachers for two years in high school were completely ignorant of the subject and massively uninterested in improving. They mostly assigned busy work to keep the unmotivated kids busy.

Only one data point, but in this case having a bad teacher made a huge difference. I was turned on to science by a couple of good teachers in high school. Neither of which originally set out to be a teacher. Both of them were in industry (engineering and pharma) before taking up teaching mid-career.

Would this really be much of an incentive for elementary school kids, especially in first or second grades? They barely understand the concept of money at all, yet it is in those grades that some of the most important fundamentals are taught. Particularly first grade is where the basics of reading are learned.

I guess because my wife is a first grade teacher I see things from that point of view. Even in that early grade there is a big difference between the good students and the bad students.

$50/day * 20days/month= 1000 per student per month. 30 students per class * $1000 = $30,000 per class per month. 100 classes in a school * $30,000 = $3,000,000. $3,000,000 * 20 schools per district = $60,000,000 per month. $60,000,000 * 100 districts in a state = $6,000,000,000. AND you still have to pay all your fixed costs - teachers, administrators, transportation. As a tax and spend democrat I love throwing money at problems, but my throwing arm might get sore throwing this much money…

Paying kids in the amounts you’re talking about probably wouldn’t be feasible. But generally speaking, I think it is a good idea to create real incentives for students.

That’s what I believe is lacking in a lot of the discussion about how to improve education. The teacher is obviously a critical element, but the suggestions for change often seem to begin and end there. More training, better pay, different curricula, etc. OK, but what about the STUDENTS.

I agree with Tethered Kite that you can have the best teachers in the world, but if the kids don’t feel like learning not a lot will happen. I believe we should acknowledge that education is a partnership between teacher and student, not something simply bestowed by teachers upon students. The learners have to do their share, and that doesn’t mean just grudgingly plodding through the assigned reading.

We should pay people to do things that are in their best interest? Have we gone that far down the survival instinct chute?

I’m with Darwin on this one.

The problem can’t be solved by giving money to students. When students are old enough to appreciate money, they’ve already developed bad habits that are hard to extinguish.

The basic problem has at least two parts:

  1. That parents are not parenting. They are not socializing their kids in a manner that will allow these kids to be able to learn and work in a classroom setting. Now, some parents do teach their kids to behave, to respect their teachers, to generally be good students. But far too many people just let their crotch spawn run around without attempting to make them behave. Proper parenting also involves some teaching, starting very early. For instance, learning colors and shapes, and then letters and numbers, should all happen BEFORE the child starts kindergarten.

  2. The kids who are prepared to learn, both socially and academically, can’t learn in a disruptive classroom filled with kids who aren’t socialized and wouldn’t know a Blue 2 if it came up and bit them. So the teachers have to try to both socialize the kids who have been allowed to run wild AND teach them things that they should already know. This pattern persists throughout primary and secondary school, and even into college.

My personal idea, though I have no great love for it, is to offer kids points towards bidding for classes.

If you assume that kids are the best judge of when they feel like they are or aren’t wasting their time, since they’re the only ones who really interact with the teacher as students (obviously), then they’ll bid for the teachers who they feel are a valuable resource to their future. But then they have to actually do well in the class to get enough points to bid competitively to get into their most preferred classes.

Since class-points aren’t really all that useful except for the ability to try and attain useful education, and have no other worldly value, I don’t think there would be a strong incentive to cheat, and it would join up students and teachers who have mutual appreciation for one another so there would be a lessened feeling of okayness with cheating.

But, it’s possible that kids would simply bid for the fun teachers who let them slack and who told them funny stories. They might be the best judges of the value of their money, but that doesn’t mean they have the wisdom to do so. I think it would be an idea worth testing, but I wouldn’t push the idea strongly.

This is a huge part of the problem. What we need to do is motivate the parents to do a better job. How do we do that? I wish I knew. Many of the bad parents are kids themselves, or never had a decent parent as a role model. I suppose schools could offer classes on parenting, but I doubt that the people who need the classes would show up.

how much will you promise to pay me (mid twenties guy, unathletic, spends his time working at computer and reading at computer) to run a marathon? How about two marathons with a short interval in between? Do you expect me to take you up on the offer? If I do, on which day of grueling training do you think I will drop out?

In Germany they track kids who are a lot smarter than the ones you mention into vocational track. We keep pretending we can make them do full academic load and graduate from college (in some worthless discipline). What we are doing is stupid, regardless of the details of the motivational techniques. People need to be given training that is useful to their actual career prospects and that they are capable of handling.

Oh hell no. Good teachers make a difference and bad teachers make things worse. If I had Jaime A. Escalante as a math teacher instead of the jackass with a 50% failure rate for calculus I would have had a much better high school education to support my college courses. I can name all the good teachers I had and what a difference it made in my life.

Maybe the solution is to use good teachers to train other teachers.

Sure. But in order to attract good, competent teachers, they must be paid adequately.

But it is extremely wrongheaded to make teachers compete against each other. This would detrimental to education because there would be no sharing of resources and ideas. Good education *must *be cooperative enterprise.

Didn’t I read some years ago, in some poor neighborhood, young girls were promised some small amount of money, like $5 or $10, a month if they did NOT get knocked up? The knocked up rate went way down. …I think it’s bad teachers, myself. I had hard courses with great teachers, and they made me want to do my best. The bad teachers weren’t worth the carbon footprint they took up, and I failed their courses. I wasn’t stupid. I literally got no help or teaching whatsoever. You could have offered me $100 a month to pass algebra, and I couldn’t have done it.

Throwing money at the problem is ignorant at best on its own but it does hint at the possibility that some times of incentives combined with psychological incentives work which they do. My mother taught in some of Louisiana’s poorest schools with a mostly impoverished black and redneck population for many years. She had many solutions to these types of issues but one of the most basic and simple to understand ones was a marble jar. The class as a whole could earn four marbles per class period based on specific criteria. Coming into class and sitting down in an orderly fashion was one, paying attention and taking notes were two more, and leaving in an orderly fashion was the fourth one. Each class had its own jar that was set side-by-side with the other classes for comparison purposes. Any single student could cause the class to lose a marble and it was rare for a class to get all four in a class period because the criteria was strict.

Once the class earned 40 marbles, we (I was in her classes too but I sat in the back) could choose a ‘fun’ activity like eating popcorn while watching a science film or do a cool experiment. These weren’t little kids either. It was middle-schoolers. The peer-pressure for students to do what they were supposed to is extreme even for the most disengaged students and it worked. She went on to win Louisiana Teacher of the Year in 1990, get her doctorate, publish two books on these types of issues and works as an educational consultant and speaker all over the world now.

If you understand the psychology of students, you don’t have to think raw cash. They don’t have a mortgage. Sometimes they just want popcorn and to fit in with their peers. It makes everyones life easier when you think of it in those terms.