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Administrator Magazine: Curriculum
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What's In It for Me?

By Barbara Axelson

A good grade used to get a pat on the back. But now some schools are rewarding their students with actual gifts, monetary or otherwise, that are more tangible than pride and provide instant gratification for work well done.

At Coshocton City Schools, in Ohio, students earn “Coshocton bucks” for achieving good scores on state exams in math, reading, writing, social studies, and science. A “proficient” score is worth $15, while students with better results receive $20. For their performance, students can collect as much as $100—or as little as $0. Bucks are redeemable at more than 100 stores in the community, including a pizza parlor and a Wal-Mart.

The program, underwritten by local manufacturer Robert Simpson’s family foundation and run by Eric Bettinger, an economics professor at Case Western Reserve University, is receiving mixed reviews.

Anna Weselak, president of National Parent Teacher Association, says, “There’s a high stress level for children taking these tests as it is, and the PTA feels that [the competition for] incentives can compound the stress.”

Wade Lucas, the district’s superintendent, disagrees. “It’s a positive journey,” he says. “We like some things we see, like math grades, but we’re not yet able to say it all works. Specific data comes out this fall.”

In Sarasota, Florida, students at Booker High School might receive an iPod just for showing up at Saturday “extra help” sessions. According to Jill Dorsett, the school’s principal, “The goal for its first year is to be a motivator for students next year. They’ll know if they come and work hard, hen they’ll be rewarded for doing that.” Dorsett will buy iPods from the school’s operating budget, and donations underwrite the weekend sessions.

Kids at Booker who pass the Florida Comprehension Assessment Test (FCAT) in reading and math can also win tickets to school sports or cultural events and get discounted tickets to the homecoming dance.

Teachers whose students score highest on the FCAT also earn bonuses, although many are reluctant to accept the money. It’s doubtful that the students feel the same way.

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