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Recruitment & Retention

$4,000 for a 4.0

By Katie Ash — September 12, 2008 1 min read

It’s been awhile since we talked about cash incentives for grades, but the subject has once again reared its head, this time in Chicago.

About 5,000 high school freshmen in 20 Chicago schools could earn $50 for every A, $35 for every B, and $20 for each C on their report cards this year, says the article. Students who receive a failing grade cannot receive any money until they bring it up to a C or better. A straight-A student could potentially earn up to $4,000 by graduation, according to the article. That’s quite a bit of money.

Of course, there are some folks who say that the program just bribes kids and takes the focus of school off the intrinsic satisfaction of learning, and then there are others who say that the financial incentive will be a strong motivator for students to put forth extra effort for their grades.

Whenever this topic comes up, I inevitably think back to my conversation with Roland Fryer, which I had when writing a story about cash-incentive programs in Georgia and Maryland. He said, “If you live in a more affluent neighborhood, you see automatically that education pays off. When you live in [a low-income community], it’s harder to understand. These programs, when done right, are trying to make education more tangible for kids.”

In the community I grew up in, the connection between education and success was obvious, but in other communities, that link isn’t always so clear. If the promise of cash for good grades helps make that more tangible, maybe it isn’t such a bad thing.

What do you think?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.