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Stranger Than Fiction: Students Paid to Attend Summer School
posted by: Alix | July 31, 2012, 05:04 PM   

Large urban school districts often struggle with low student performance and dismal graduation rates. Washington, D.C. public schools are no exception and the District is often listed as one of the poorest performing school systems in the country. In an effort to combat these systemic issues, school leaders have instituted a controversial new program that pays students to attend summer classes in order to get a jump start on the school year.

According to the Washington Examiner, the rising ninth-graders will earn money to participate in the "Summer Bridge" program, which targets students identified by Washington D.C. Public Schools as less likely than their peers to graduate high school within four years. Each student will be paid $5.25 an hour for attending classes in the month of August.

While 95 students voluntarily signed up for the summer school program, the school system reached out to the Department of Employment Services to select the additional 300 students who were looking for work over the summer. Those struggling students who had signed up for the Summer Youth Employment Program were told that school would be their jobs this summer. District officials plan to study this year's results and hopefully expand the program next summer.

The Examiner points out that this isn't the first time that the Washington D.C. Public Schools have experimented with paying students to learn. Beginning in 2008, officials allowed a Harvard University group to pay nearly 3,000 middle-school students up to $100 a month in exchange for good grades. The program was brought to an end when grades did not improve significantly.

Despite similar failed programs, District Spokesperson Melissa Salmanowitz called the summer initiative a different model altogether. "Students aren't making up failed coursework, and some of their class-time is devoted to workplace simulations," she stressed. "In one scenario, students use math and literacy skills to solve problems while pretending to be executives at a sports television network."

Analysts suggest paying students as an incentive to learn is an emerging trend in education. Schools in New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Texas have experimented with programs that pay students. Salem and Green Run High Schools in Virginia Beach, Virginia have even chosen to pay students $100 for performing well on Advanced Placement exams.

Further, according to a recent Harvard study, Economist Roland Fryer found that strategically designed payments showed some success in boosting overall student performance. Still, money alone is considered "not enough" to combat all problems in education.

What do you think about this program? Is it a good idea to pay students for going to school or receiving a good grade on a test?
Comment below.

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