School & District Management

Professor to Test Cash Incentives

By Caroline Hendrie — December 07, 2004 1 min read

Roland G. Fryer thinks he knows a common-sense way to get pupils from struggling city neighborhoods to try harder in class: pay them for their efforts.

This winter, the assistant professor of economics at Harvard University plans to test his theory in a New York City research project. With the blessing of city Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, the 3rd and 7th graders taking part in the study will receive small amounts of cash for doing well on standardized classroom tests given every three weeks or so. The project is slated to start in February in 20 public schools scattered around New York City.

“We think of this as a real serious attempt to understand the efficacy of incentives,” said Mr. Fryer, who is in his second year of teaching at Harvard. “It’s an organized allowance program for people in communities who don’t have the resources to give their kids allowance.”

If all goes as planned, youngsters will be rewarded both on an individual and a group basis for scoring at a certain level or improving significantly on assessments designed to prepare them for high-stakes tests. At each three-week testing milestone, 3rd graders would be eligible for $10 each, while 7th graders could earn $20 each.

Mr. Fryer said he was scouting for a bank to partner with him in the study, with the understanding that half of the rewards would go into accounts set up for the students and the other half would go into their pockets.

Troubled by prior research he conducted on the achievement gap between black and white students in the early grades, Mr. Fryer began thinking that money might be a way to kick-start a positive cycle of achievement among students of color from disadvantaged communities.

“You can’t tell a kindergartner, ‘If you graduate, I’ll pay for your college education,’ ” he said. “But if you can give them step by step—achievement, reward, achievement, reward—then they’ll be there.”

For those alarmed by the notion of paying children to learn, Mr. Fryer predicts that “the joy of achievement” will come to mean far more to the pupils than the money.

“Most of these 3rd graders can barely read,” he said. “If grubbing for grades gets them basic skills, so be it.”

Related Tags:


Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.
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.
Student Well-Being Webinar
The Social-Emotional Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on American Schoolchildren
Hear new findings from an analysis of our 300 million student survey responses along with district leaders on new trends in student SEL.
Content provided by Panorama

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

School & District Management Opinion Schools Faced a Massive Systems Failure During the Pandemic. How Do We Fix It?
Education leaders can (and must) find common purpose in the face of COVID-19, writes one superintendent.
Laura Kagy
2 min read
Hands hold up gears together.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management 4 Ways to Keep Staff and Students Safe From the Delta Variant
Just as schools reopen, a super-contagious COVID-19 variant is infecting people nationwide at alarming rates. Here's what schools can do.
5 min read
Students and parents walk into school on the first day of school at Enrique S. Camarena Elementary School on July 21, 2021, in Chula Vista, Calif.
Students and parents walk into school on the first day of school at Enrique S. Camarena Elementary School on July 21, 2021, in Chula Vista, Calif.
Denis Poroy/AP
School & District Management Opinion Q&A Collections: Education Policy Issues
Posts on the key education policy issues from the past 10 years.
13 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
School & District Management Opinion Leaders, Your Communication Plan Needs to Start With Your Staff
Staff members are the point of contact for thousands of interactions with the public each day. They can’t be the last to know of changes.
Gladys I. Cruz
2 min read
A staff meeting around a table.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images