Geralyn Raach, a teacher at Central Elementary School, has a favorite slogan for motivating her 3rd graders to put in their best effort, but it’s not what you would expect. Borrowing a line from the movie “Jerry Maguire,”the veteran teacher likes to call out, “Show me the money!”
That’s because Ms. Raach’s district is taking part in an unusual experiment to pay students for passing or scoring high on state exams. Pupils here in grades 3 through 6 earn $15 for every “proficient” score and $20 for “accelerated” or “advanced” scores. With annual tests given in five subjects, students can earn up to $100 if they ace their exams.
Running counter to decades of research in motivational psychology, the idea of paying students for their test performance is anathema to many educators. But administrators and teachers in this small city in central Ohio argue that, in an era when the federal No Child Left Behind Act and other accountability programs are putting unprecedented pressure on schools to show that students’ test scores are improving, bold...