Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Who Else Wants Money for Passing a Test?

Is money the key to testing sucess? I'm sure my kids would like money for passing their achievement tests, but would they work more if they could make up to $500.00? Would it provide healthy competition among their peers? Would their increased study habits be sustainable over time? Would they use their money on a new iPhone, save it for college, or even buy their dad a Christmas present? (My guess for my own kids would be the iPhone...but I'm always optimistic!) Low income students may have definite needs for the added income, i.e. school supplies, shoes, dinner, etc.

Or is education truly an intrinsic value? Will money for performance decrease our appreciation of something that should be treasured? Can the money for performance develop a "value" for education that possibly wasn't there before? Does this concept run parallel to our capitalistic society?

New York City Public Schools, the Dallas (TX) Independent School District, and a few others are offering cash incentives for their students to pass Advanced Placement and/or other mandated tests. The New York Post had a recent article entitled, "Learn-&-Earn Plan Pays Off: Scores Soar at Cash-for-Kids Schools" by Kelly Magee and Yoav Gonen that discusses the success of the pay for performance program. Many instructors are also offered an incentive for class performance on mandated tests. Is this an effective program for them as well? (Check out an article discussing the pros and cons, "Should We Pay Students for Good Test Scores? ")

The primary argument that I see in this discussion is incentives vs. the intrinsic value of education. I can truly see both sides of the argument and I hope you will let us know your thoughts on this topic.

I have one last thought for the day. I have long wondered about addressing teacher pay and there is a new program in New York that is paying teachers $125,000.00 per year and they will also be eligible for bonuses, based on school-wide performance, of up to $25,000 in the second year.

The school, called the Equity Project, is premised on the theory that excellent teachers — and not revolutionary technology, talented principals or small class size — are the critical ingredient for success. Experts hope it could offer a window into some of the most pressing and elusive questions in education: Is a collection of superb teachers enough to make a great school?

The school’s founder, Zeke M. Vanderhoek, 32, a Yale graduate who founded a test prep company, has been grappling with just these issues. Check out the New York Times article, "Next Test: Value of $125,000-a-Year Teachers," for the rest of the story.

As always, let us know your thoughts! J.T.

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