School renovations aren’t going so well, teachers are resisting Chancellor Michelle Rhee‘s ambitious plan to undo decades-old seniority rules, and student performance remains persistently miserable.
Despite her stunning ability to push dramatic change through a historically resistant political structure, the District’s schools chancellor is getting a little bit desperate. The evidence: Last week’s announcement of a deeply cynical effort to pay D.C. middle-schoolers to attend school, behave decently and perform in the classroom.
Yes, pay them, as in cash money. Rhee, Mayor Adrian Fenty and Harvard University economist Roland Fryer, a 30-year-old wunderkind who has taken on some highly controversial topics in novel and fascinating ways, are teaming up on a pilot project to be rolled out in October in 14 District middle schools. Kids who show up, follow the rules and meet academic goals will collect points that could earn them paychecks of as much as $100 every two weeks — per kid. The money — the city expects to spend $2.7 million the first year — will be deposited in bank accounts in each student’s name.
No reasonable person expected Rhee to produce better test scores in such a short time. So why would she and Fenty embrace an unproven and depressingly classist, bordering on racially condescending, tactic like “Capital Gains,” the city’s name for a program it first introduced as — egad! — “School Is Money.”