Innovation in Education Gone Awry


An oft-used unofficial definition of insanity: doing things the same way over and over and expecting different results. Some say that applies to education improvement efforts.

The following qualifies as "doing it differently" but falls way short of positive innovation. We’re talking about the initiative to pay students who show up for school, behave and do better on their test scores. The lineup of opponents to this ill-conceived strategy is long and vocal.

Stafford Palmieri of the Fordham Institute writes: "Higher standards, better teachers, and more tests are not the solution here. We need to teach our children that pulling an all nighter may be worth the temporary discomfort or that missing an episode of Project Runway is worth it to finish their math homework. That starts with parents. So here’s another great question: How are we going to get parents to start teaching their children to respect education?"

Diane Ravitch offers a Forbes op-ed here that closes with the following: "Interesting, isn’t it, that while students in other countries are paying $1,500 a year for the chance to learn more, many American students will be paid that same amount just to do what they ought to be doing in their own self-interest?

Does the future belong to those who struggle to better themselves, make sacrifices to do so and work hard? Or to those who must be cajoled and bribed to learn anything at all?"

Go Stafford and Diane. Where do you fall on paying kids to do what they’re supposed to be doing away?

0 thoughts on “Innovation in Education Gone Awry

  1. I was recently volunteering at a youth center and one of the students, who knows me well, ask if he could have some money for getting good grades. I was given a similar incentive by my parents as a child but I can see how this might be the wrong approach. I agree that we must get students to grasp the long-term benefits of an education or they will never really commit.

  2. While I agree with your logic in theory, there is a different reality in inner-city schools where educational opportunities are not equal and where parents often times don’t see the benefit in education and therefore set bad examples for their children. I’m a privaledged adult whose parents sent me to prestigious private school but also paid me for good grades, and while I appreciated the reward, it also got my attention to focus on what the long-term purpose was in getting good grades. I think it’s the same thing for kids in urban areas; you have to get their attention somehow. It’s been shown to work and to get kids more interested in school. If you give them some cash when they get good grades, they stay in after school programs more consistently and study harder and ask more questions. The more they do that, the more they will see the long-term benefit of it all, and the cash becomes a way for them to better themselves in ways that make them feel better about themselves. They often come from low income families, and this allows them to buy that new jacket or new shoes they had wished they had. They see that the harder you work, the better chance you have of differentiating yourself in life. This whole laissez-faire attitude of a majority of Republicans and Libertarians never truly leads to the kind of change we need in our schools and our leaders of tomorrow.

  3. I’m not questioning parents offering incentives/rewards to their own children; in fact, if done right that may show a higher level of parental involvement than currently exists for many.

    Rob, you make good points, but as far as schools spending large sums of money to “bribe” students to do better, I’d like to think there are better ways — or at least this is not seen as the cure-all in getting students engaged.

  4. Seems to me like it’s all a bit of a moot argument, as I can’t imagine where the state could gather the kind of money necessary for such a payment program. Although, it could be argued that, in a sense, while it may not be in line with conservative or libertarian principles, it would be a very capitalist gesture. Do well and be financially rewarded. Personally, I would never advocate for this type of massive spending program, but I’m just saying the argument could be made.

    At any rate, thanks to Rob for the thoughtful feedback.

  5. I have been substituting in the inner city recently. Here is a first person observation. In a recent class I offered to GIVE them the answers to the homework assignment if they would be quiet. They could have cared less and continued to shuck and jive. However, when I placed a $5 on the board and said I would give that to them if they could be quiet for 10 minutes. For that period of time you could hear a pin drop.

    I hate it when reality interferes with my theory. Getting an “A” in the eighth grade has no value to these students. Showing them successful role models doesn’t work. Class room discipline is horrendous and the students that do want to learn are stifled, and outnumbered, by those who don’t.

    I try to offer a solution to any problem. It may not be the best or even correct, but it is a solution. Cut the teachers and administrative salaries by 10% and offer those funds as an incentive for grades. Not a graduated scale, but rewarding only A’s. Administrators will be responsible for oversight of grade inflation instead of discipline or teachers whining about the classroom environment. If costs remain the same but the results are better, why won’t it work?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *