Monday, July 2

Commentary on the cash-for-kids plan

Since the DOE announced last month its plan to pay some students for their performance on tests, the education world has been abuzz with commentary on the program. Here's a roundup of the dialogue.

Today in the Times, Barry Schwartz, a psychology professor at Swarthmore College, says decades of psychology research suggest the plan could backfire. He writes:

Assumptions that economists make about human motivation, though intuitive and straightforward, are false. In particular, the idea that adding motives always helps is false. There are circumstances in which adding an incentive competes with other motives and diminishes their impact. Psychologists have known this for more than 30 years.
Less demurely, historian Diane Ravitch lambasted the plan in the Huffington Post shortly after it was announced, calling it "anti-democratic, anti-civic, anti-intellectual, and anti-social."

The plan to pay kids has also found a host of defenders. In the comments on Ravitch's piece, for example, one person wrote: "I think I know a lot more about poor people and kids than you do and you are WRONG. This plan sends exactly the right message: good grades are valuable."

And the Staten Island Advance took a look at a similar program in a small town in Ohio and reported that school officials there had seen some signs of success. Those officials also told the Advance that the program had been well received because they had consulted with community members for months before launching the program.

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