Performance Value$

March 04, 2009 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Many schools in major urban districts like New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Dallas are employing incentive programs that reward students—often with money—for good performance. These programs have long-garnered skepticism from some psychologists who say they are ineffectual in the long run. But, some business professionals and economists support the programs, citing a need to try anything and everything to improve education. A renewed focus on education reform has prompted increased research on whether or not the programs work, according to the New York Times.

Economists studied several cash programs to compare the academic performance of students who are paid versus those who are not. The results are mixed. Kirabo Jackson, an assistant professor of economics at Cornell who studied Dallas’ A.P. test reward program, found that students who earned rewards scored higher on the SAT and enrolled in college at a higher rate than students who were not rewarded. A separate study of New York’s program A.P. reward program showed that “test scores were flat but that more students were taking the tests.”

Psychologists have explored incentivizing learning since the 1970s. One of the first studies, published in 1971 by University of Rochester psychologist Edward L. Deci, found that, “once the incentives stopped coming, students showed less interest in the task at hand than those who received no reward.”

Newer psychological studies are examining how to differentiate types of incentives and how children perceive them. Some studies report that students resist the awards and incentives because they, “can sense that someone is trying to control their behavior.”

“One of the central questions is to consider how children think about this,” said Mark R. Lepper, a Stanford psychologist. “Are they saying, ‘Oh, I see, they are just bribing me’?”

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


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
How to Leverage Virtual Learning: Preparing Students for the Future
Hear from an expert panel how best to leverage virtual learning in your district to achieve your goals.
Content provided by Class
English-Language Learners Webinar AI and English Learners: What Teachers Need to Know
Explore the role of AI in multilingual education and its potential limitations.
Education Webinar The K-12 Leader: Data and Insights Every Marketer Needs to Know
Which topics are capturing the attention of district and school leaders? Discover how to align your content with the topics your target audience cares about most. 

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education From Our Research Center What's on the Minds of Educators, in Charts
Politics, gender equity, and technology—how teachers and administrators say these issues are affecting the field.
1 min read
Stylized illustration of a pie chart
Traci Daberko for Education Week
Education Briefly Stated: August 30, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: August 23, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: August 16, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read