Educational Editorial: Grades for cash

By Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The April 19 cover story in Time Magazine looks at a noble experiment to pay young people to get better grades.

Dr. Roland Fryer, a Harvard economist, who raised private funds to launch the research in DC, New York, Chicago and Dallas, developed the "grades for cash" scheme. The results were mixed and the there is intense debate about the likelihood that Dr. Fryer has developed a new formula for academic success.

What do students in this experiment teach us about economics? While the boys in DC seemed to do better than girls, they improved on standardized tests but not in grades or attendance.

In Chicago girls and boys came to school more and had better grades but did not improve on state and national tests. In New York, the 6,000 paid student-workers showed no progress at all.

Perhaps Dr. Fryer should read some more psychology, especially Herzberg's motivational hygiene theory. In looking at job satisfaction, Dr. Herzberg found that there are two independent factors that impact employees…satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

Money, he found is a "disatisfier" -- there is never enough.

My first teaching job in Henrico County was $6,000 a year -- one of my colleagues said, "Bill, this is probably the most money that you will ever make."

He was right! And, what then did he find to be the "satisfiers?" Pride, recognition, and a sense of ownership.

A retired VCU professor, Dr. Daisy Reed once studied young people who should have dropped out but did not…resilient at-risk young people. She found that the factor that most determined that a student would stay in school was whether or not he or she felt that someone cared.

Perhaps it is not paying money that young people want from adults…it is paying attention.

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