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Bribe Kids With Money

Just a penny? Try $50 for students' thoughts
Schenectady-- Cash proposed as incentive for children at ailing schools

City school officials, struggling to fix their three middle schools recently flagged under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, think they have a solution: cold cash.

"We were thinking about another way to motivate kids and we thought, 'Hey, how about money,' " said Gary Comley, the Mont Pleasant Middle School principal.

Comley wants to offer a $50 reward to students who pass the state's eighth-grade English and math tests, an idea that he said might inspire students who aren't otherwise motivated to study for the tests.

One potential beneficiary of the plan was enthusiastic. "That sounds good," said Britton Leone, an eighth-grader at Mont Pleasant.

The 13-year-old student said the cash would give him and his classmates added incentive to prepare for the exams.

Mont Pleasant, Oneida and Central Park middle schools were among a dozen schools in the greater Capital Region that were flagged last month for poor academic performance under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The city school district is examining a number of ways to improve test scores. Comley pitched the reward idea at a recent meeting of the district's parent-teacher group. "Some parents were kind of appalled by the idea. Others were like, 'Why? This is their job. They should get paid for it,' " he said.

But Jim Allen, a professor of educational psychology at the College of Saint Rose, said the reward could initially motivate students to do better on the tests, but it would do little to fuel a love of learning.

"What you end up doing is putting an emphasis on financial reward and money," he said. "That defeats the purpose, which I believe schools are for -- to foster a sense of learning."

Comley cautioned that the proposal is still in its infancy and has not been discussed with the Board of Education. He said he wanted to have the reward system in place in time for the English and Language Arts exam in January. The math test is given in May.

Comley said he wasn't sure how the rewards would be funded but expected grant money would be the most likely source.

Board of Education President Brian Ansari had not previously heard about the idea and was initially reluctant to discuss it Thursday. However, he said he might be willing to consider it if it was part of a broader effort to improve the city schools.

The idea arose from a recent visit by district officials to Atlanta, Comley said, where they learned about a program at Southside High School that paid students a dollar for every point they raised their test scores between the preliminary PSAT and their SATs.

— Mike Goodwin
Just a penny? Try $50 for students' thoughts
Albany Times-Union


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