Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pay Kids to Do Well in School? I Vote Yes

For lots of reasons not necessarily laid out here. If we are going to make them do work they don't want to do, why not pay them? We get paid. And if they like it and they get paid, well. . . . And see Sidorkin.
The kids had much in common. In all four cities, a majority were African American or Hispanic and from low-income families. So why did the results vary so dramatically from city to city?

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."

We tend to assume that kids (and adults) know how to achieve success. If they don't get there, it's for lack of effort — or talent. Sometimes that's true. But a lot of the time, people are just flying blind. John List, an economist at the University of Chicago, has noticed the disconnect in his own education experiments. He explains the problem to me this way: "I could ask you to solve a third-order linear partial differential equation," he says. "A what?" I ask. "A third-order linear partial differential equation," he says. "I could offer you a million dollars to solve it. And you can't do it." (He's right. I can't.) For some kids, doing better on a geometry test is like solving a third-order linear partial differential equation, no matter the incentive. . . .

So what happens if we pay kids to do tasks they know how to do? In Dallas, paying kids to read books — something almost all of them can do — made a big difference. In fact, the experiment had as big or bigger an effect on learning as many other reforms that have been tested, like lowering class size or enrolling kids in Head Start early-education programs (both of which cost thousands of dollars more per student). And the experiment also boosted kids' grades. "If you pay a kid to read books, their grades go up higher than if you actually pay a kid for grades, like we did in Chicago," Fryer says. "Isn't that cool?"

7 comments:

The Reflective Educator said...

As a teacher who worked in DC school (combined HS and MS campus) where students were paid on his DC model, most teachers found it to be a complete disaster. Kids did not care about making money for good behavior (something I assume most of them know how to do) or about attendance (again - I think we can assume kids know how to show up). DCPS teachers largely considered it a joke. See http://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2010/04/10/fryers-study/ for more commentary.

However, in support of his argument on reading, I'd recommend: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html

Leroy's Mom said...

Hmm, Larry Ferlazzo, after starting to read the original report, seems to have come to the opposite conclusion. His post The Problem With Bribing Students points out based on the Pink's work (an example is cited above) that what you are getting is compliance on lower cognitive behavior. Another issue that seems to be missing from most of these plans that Larry points out is there is no exit strategy. I think this is because the plans are being devised by economist, rather than cognitive or other psychologist. "Reward" based plans have been used for quite some time to alter student behavior on an individual basis, (ABA is the standard treatment for ASD/Autism, PBS, Positive Behavior Support). They all feature something called "fading" where the re-enforcer is removed, but the desired behavior remains.
FYI this Google Login I'm forced to sign in under is not where I blog:

Alice Mercer
http://mizmercer.edublogs.org

Sebastin said...

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I'm not sure where many of the theoreticians were while developing their online learning theories. In their world adults are always motivated learners. I'm not unusual but I can easily point to training sessions where learners did not come motivated. In fact, changing learner attitudes was what the first part of the training attempt………….

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Aaron Schutz said...

It all depends, of course, on how you do it, when you do it, etc. But the basic idea, that work that kids don't want to do ought to be paid as work, seems right to me.

Seems like this might especially be effective in high school (although I haven't reread the report).

And if they do want to do it, great. I get paid. Does that mean my motivation is messed up? I also support efforts that pay poor parents for doing good things for their kids, families, etc.

Webmaster said...

I prefer no, because elementary school student need to actualization themselves, not to paid.

mricus7 said...

I am willing to accept the merits of this program in general, after much debate, but think we need to talk details. Some aspects of this program seem to be working. Other components need to be updated or removed. We need to ask ourselves when creating these programs important questions such as: Do we pay students for good behavior as well as good grades? How do we transfer these funds and does this work over time? What age group has best responded to this program?

The research is starting to show some important data. Let's look at this to move forward.

Scott and Morgan said...

The issue with paying students to get good grades is that if students still do not do well in school and are not rewarded they can fall farther down the cracks. Students need motivation and sure money works but for how long will that continue to work and some students may not need the money or want it. We are also showing them that there will be rewards for doing well and in some instances this is true but not in all. Once entering the workplace you are required to do what is asked of you and if you do not meet the expectations you do not get paid; money is not the reward for doing well, keeping your job is.