Jump-Starting NAEP Scores With Financial Rewards

By Hannah Lepow — July 15, 2010 1 min read
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A new study showing that 12th graders paid for correct answers on the National Assessment of Educational Progress scored higher than their peers who weren’t given a financial incentive has sparked debate over the question incentives.

Our Education Week colleague Debra Viadero points out that students don’t have much incentive to score higher on their NAEP assessments, as scores don’t show up on report cards or count for graduation requirements.

The Core Knowledge Blog has an interesting take on the study in light of the NAEP scores flatline:

The study purports to show "credible evidence" that NAEP underestimates the reading abilities of students enrolled in 12th grade. "Responsible officials should take this into account as they plan changes to the NAEP reading framework and expand the scope of the 12th-grade assessment survey," the authors [of the study] conclude.
In other words, things aren't as bad as they seem? To my mind the salient point about 12th grade NAEP is that it has read like a dead man's EKG for 40 years. Unless you're ready to suggest that high school seniors were more motivated to do well in years gone by (and show evidence) then NAEP has consistently underestimated reading abilities that entire time. Under the same testing conditions (no pay) over several decades, there has been zero change in outcome.

Should stagnant NAEP scores be shaken up—if it’s even possible—by giving students monetary incentives?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.