Fryer and Rhee Teaching Children to Demand: Show Me the Money

Jim Horn at Schools Matter writes:

Hoping to further his “research” on how to instill rat learning in children with ca$sh rewards, crackpot economist-cum-education-researcher, Roland Fryer, has brought some of Eli Broad’s bags of money to the D.C. area for another grand experiment on unwary middle schoolers. Michelle Rhee, of course, is in for a million + with D.C. education funds.

Operating under the appellation of the American Inequality Lab (AIL), Fryer and his paymasters are on their way to finding a prominent place in the dustbin of discarded educational atrocities against the poor, if and when people eventually wake up to this kind of Wall Street-inspired corruption of children. The name for this exploitation: Capital Gains.
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One response to “Fryer and Rhee Teaching Children to Demand: Show Me the Money

  1. “Capital Gains” is a student financial incentive program being launched in October 2008 at 14 of D.C.’s 28 public middle schools. Under the program, 3,000 students will be eligible to earn up to 50 points per month and be paid $2 per point—up to $100 per month—for attending class regularly and on time, turning in homework, displaying manners, and earning high grades. Parents will be able to choose not to permit their children to participate in the program. D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee said she is targeting students in middle schools—grades 6 through 8—because of behavioral and academic problems that sometimes arise in the middle school years. Rhee said middle school is a “pivotal time” because many students are setting patterns that lead toward the alternative paths of excellence in high school or dropping out. (V. Dion Haynes and Michael Birnbaum, “D.C. Tries Cash as a Motivator In School: Initiative Is Aimed At Middle Grades,” The Washington Post: August 22, 2008).
    A maximum of $2.7 million has been set aside for the program. Schools will track student performance on several metrics through an online database created specifically for the program and will reward them with cash every two weeks. Rhee will select the schools to participate in the pilot program, and she has said that if the program is a success, she could expand it to 14 other middle schools and possibly high schools as well (Haynes and Birnbaum).
    The $2.7 million cost of the program will be split “almost equally” between the D.C. school system and Harvard’s American Inequality Lab (Haynes and Birnbaum). Harvard’s American Inequality Lab, in turn, is a policy research organization run by Professor Roland Fryer, Jr., a Harvard economist. The American Inequality Lab receives its funding from Harvard University, the National Science Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Kaplan Educational Foundation and the Smith Richardson Foundation. The Kaplan Educational Foundation is a product of the Kaplan Corporation, which specializes in training students to take standardized tests. In addition to the D.C. Public Schools, Fryer is currently working with 62 schools in New York City, which provides as much as $500 for students in grades 4 through 7 who perform well on a standardized test. According to Fryer, 96 percent of the New York schools participating in the program reported that they were excited about the money, 91 percent reported an increased focus on exams, and 59 percent reported better classroom performance (Haynes and Birnbaum).
    Despite their strong interest in measurable results, student cash incentive programs in the U.S. have themselves so far shown a mixed record of achievement. On one hand, a study by labor economist Kirabo Jackson of Cornell University found positive results for a cash incentive program operating in Texas called the Advanced Placement Incentive Program (APIP). Jackson found that providing cash incentives for student performance on advanced placement (AP) examinations at 10 Dallas schools, beginning in 1996, led to a dramatic increase in the number of AP exams taken as well as an increase in the number of passing scores. Jackson also documented other conceivable impacts: “a 30 percent increase in the number of students scoring above 1100 on the SAT or above 24 on the ACT, and an 8 percent increase in the number of students at a high school who enroll in a college or university in Texas” after the cash incentive program later expanded to include more than 40 schools statewide (C. Kirabo Jackson, “Cash for Test Scores: The impact of the Texas Advanced Placement Incentive Program,” Education Next: Fall 2008: 72).

    On another hand, recent results from a similar program attempted in the New York City Public Schools have actually shown an overall decline in the rate of exam passage during the first year of the program. In the New York City case, called the Rewarding Achievement (REACH) program, students at 31 New York schools took 345 more tests than in the spring of 2007 —the year before the program began—but the overall passage rate for the participating schools dropped from 35 percent in the spring of 2007 to 32 percent in the spring of 2008. Commenting on the results of the New York program, Professor Pedro Noguera of New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development said, “I’d invest in tutoring before I’d invest in incentives” (Karen Matthews, “NYC Cash-for-Tests Program Shows Mixed Results,” Time: August 21, 2008).

    The “Capital Gains” student financial incentive program is thus a pay-for-attendance-and-performance experiment aimed at motivating D.C.’s middle school students to develop habits conducive to academic success. Jointly funded by the D.C. Public Schools and Harvard University, it aims to test the premise that incremental financial rewards will motivate student achievement as measured by standardized testing and participant self-reporting. The record of achievement of similar programs currently operating in the U.S. is, so far, inconclusive.

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