Grades for Contraband

By Elizabeth Rich — March 05, 2008 1 min read
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Last week in New York City, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein announced the start of another student-incentive program, according to the New York Times. For 2,500 Brooklyn middle school and charter school students, Samsung flip-phones with 130 prepaid minutes will be their reward for doing well in school. Teachers and administrators will be able to text reminders to students about homework or say, an upcoming test. How can students, who are not known for telephonic brevity, earn more minutes? Behave in school, maintain good attendance, and keep their grades up.

The “Million” program, which refers to the city’s 1.1 million students, is the brainchild of Harvard economist, Roland G. Fryer. Fryer, the city’s chief equality officer who also oversees another cash-incentive program for students said, “We want to reach kids where they are and where they are hanging out; they’re texting.” “Million,” which cost double that, was supposed to provide cellphones for 10-15,000 students, but the Fund for Public Schools could not raise the money.

In spite of the critics who protest rewarding students with a device banned in schools, Chancellor Klein defends the plan, “...This is about reality. We have an enormous set of challenges of student motivation in their education and [are] finding ways to get those kids excited.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.