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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Getting paid to go to school...

A couple weeks ago I latched onto an interesting discussion over at Joanne Jacobs’ site. The topic “du jour was”, of course, education related as that is the forte of the site owner.

Specifically, there was discourse relative to 24 New York City schools experimenting with the concept of paying a student to perform. As was pointed out, there really isn’t too much research in the field. There seemed to be a lot of interest with opinions all over the spectrum as to whether it was a good idea or not. In that particular program, a successful economist, Roland Fryer (Junior Fellow, Harvard Society of Fellows) was leading the charge. The program appears to be focusing on minority students. It’s still too early to evaluate whether the program is successful in improving the participation and performance of the student. Obviously, there were different views as to the merit of such an exercise. Everything from the Equal Protection Act application to opposition from the teacher’s unions including a similar program in on the Left Coast that appeared to be a success. The dialogue was lively and enlightening.

I’m not sure where I fell in the group. On the surface it seems like a novel approach to gaining the lost interest of students. Yet, something didn’t sit right. Perhaps that has something to do with my coming from a family that has more teachers and principals in it than some of the more rural school districts en total.

Today I stumbled across an article in the Detroit Free Press dealing with a similar concept. Yet, this one takes the process just a bit further. And, to me, the steps they take makes the program that much more meritorious.




Schoolkids on payroll for learning
BY PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI
FREE PRESS EDUCATION WRITER
November 29, 2004


David Snyder's paycheck was $18 last week. He's saving his money. He wants to buy an Ugly Wuggly, a rubbery toy lizard that students use as a pencil holder.

He is 8.

But how does an 8-year-old earn a paycheck?

Schoolwork.

Being paid for schoolwork is part of the third-grade curriculum at Beverly Elementary, in the Birmingham school district. Students earn "Beverly Bucks" for homework, tests and class work, with a bonus thrown in for good quality.

At the end of the week, they can take a paycheck home for endorsement. Then the student can cash the check for Beverly Bucks and shop in the class store.

(snip)

I’ll have to admit that up to this part in the article I, sort of, had to cringe. An 8 year old bringing home the bacon didn’t sound too appealing in reference to the actual goal of gaining improvements in participation and performance. However, as I read on I realized that this program includes an education and discipline application in finances. When you consider the outright abuse of Credit in this plastic Country of ours, it’s not that bad of an idea to include a bit of a lesson in Capitalism as an aside to classroom learning.





David's paycheck was a little light because of the shortened holiday workweek. Paychecks usually run from $30 to $80, said teacher Christine Knoper.

The paycheck curriculum is part economics, part math and a very big part incentive.
"Their work has really improved," Knoper said. "When I come to work, I get paid for it. We've really just likened it to the real world."

After the Christmas break, Knoper said the paycheck curriculum will be ramped up a notch when the kids start paying taxes on the hallways (a form of road tax) and playgrounds.

Students can lose money, too.

"If I accidentally hit somebody, I have to lose $4 or $5," said Shane Holmes, 8, suggesting that losing that much money was horrifying.

Another life lesson taught by the paychecks is dealing with disappointment. Across the hall, one student was almost in tears. The radio pens sold out before he could get one. Even at $100, the pens were extremely desirable items and teacher Kim O'Rourke promised to look for more of them.


(snip)

What’s interesting here is that there is real world application. While I’m not a big proponent of introducing taxes to a third grader, you have to consider that the program gives the student an investment in the school. 8 year olds can be pretty territorial. They will not be kind to someone who vandalizes that portion of the building in which they are forced to invest a segment of their “earnings.” The whole notion of “my school” takes on an entirely new meaning. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea afterall.

There is, also, the use of penalties and repercussions for performing on a sub par level, both academically and behaviorally. That’s no different from what happens outside the school yard. The current system is too interested in the “certificate of participation” and not the acquisition of goals. Winning is not a bad thing. Succeeding is not harmful. Too often, students are shielded from the necessity of flexibility and the efforts required for achievements that accompany decision making. There are disappointments in life. Learning how to deal with that truth in a constructive environment can produce a better rounded individual. At least that’s my opinion.



The store items are partly paid for out of parent donations and class funds. The teachers also kick in a little money.

At one point, Knoper's students were selling items to each other, sending a mini-black market into full swing. Then the third-graders started to see the downside of the black market and voted to outlaw it, Knoper said. They've also learned -- like many adults -- that sharing money and loaning money among friends are bad ideas.


(snip)

The funding process appears to be a good one. The parents and teachers are both invested in the results. It could be considered an incentive on their behalf as well. If this were funded through Government funds there would be a risk of violating the Equal Protection Act should this be the only class applying the program. The privatization avoids this potential issue.

And, oh those wily third graders setting up their own black market to move some hot Ugly Wugglys. On the surface it was to be expected. However, it was, also, a great lesson in free enterprise. Finally, it was an extremely beneficial example of the necessity of rules and regulations applied to the free enterprise market so as to provide an fair marketplace. So help me, I can just picture those 8 year olds expressing their own unique personalities as these options expose themselves. Even at such a young age, you can always pick out wheeler dealer types.



"I go back and forth with it," said David Snyder's mother, Karen. She doesn't give allowances for helping around the house, believing that work comes with being part of the family. But she said the paychecks have motivated David.

"I don't see it hurting him at all," Karen Snyder said. "He likes getting the math done, which is great, the handwriting done. We're all motivated because we want rewards. And I like that David is saving up for something, instead of just blowing everything he's got. That's good money management strategy."

(snip)

I think that's the idea. You can read the rest of the article HERE...

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