Chicago kids to be paid for grades

Filed under: Teens, Work Life, Day Care & Education

Would you have studied harder if you knew there was cold hard cash on the line? That's the hope of adminstrators in Chicago where they are implementing a plan designed at Harvard wherein kids will get fifty dollars for an A, thirty-five for a B, and twenty bucks for a C. They get half up front and half when they graduate. Students can earn as much as four thousand dollars over the course of the first two years of high school.

Rewarding good grades is nothing new, of course. Usually, however, those rewards come from the parents. "The majority of our students don't come from families with a lot of economic wealth. I'm always trying to level the playing field," said schools chief executive Arne Duncan. "This is the kind of incentive that middle-class families have had for decades."

Not everyone thinks it's a good idea, though. "It's a terrible idea, because you're getting people to do things for the wrong reasons," said Swarthmore College psychology professor Barry Schwartz. "They'll do well in school, maybe, but they won't take any of it out with them. Instead of trying to cultivate an interest in learning, curiosity . . . you are just turning this into another job."

I too think learning is its own reward, but I also know that wasn't necessarily the attitude I had when I was in school. If this program can get kids to study and stay in school when they would otherwise do poorly and possibly drop out, then perhaps it's worth a try.

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