Paying students for grades: Is it sustainable and should it be?
Academic Leadership - Online Journal,
Vol. 8 No. 3 (2007): Vol-8-Issue-3-March-2007
Educational leaders are consistently challenged to find innovative ways to maximize learning outcomes
for students. Some of the more recent approaches aimed at improving student achievement that have
emerged in public school systems involve paying students cash for good grades, attendance and good
behavior. While these financial incentive programs are only a few years in the making, they have been
initiated in many places throughout the U.S . The various programs have been developed with slightly
different specifications and have been given unique names, but they all entail financially compensating
students, many of whom are socioeconomically disadvantaged.
This paper highlights some of the most notable cash incentive programs, questions why the flow of
money into these programs is not totally transparent and well known to the taxpayers who fund some of
them, and reviews literature on the psychological, motivational, and ethical issues surrounding this
policy. We would like to question how much public funding is being spent, especially since towns and
school systems are struggling in these difficult financial times with miniscule operating budgets.
One looming question is whether or not the programs are sustainable. Can these programs continue
even if they are good for the students? Will the students respond favorably if the financial rewards do
not increase, or if they decrease? What happens to students when the money stops? Reasonably it
seems that it must.