This past summer, MLive.com and others reported that one of Michigan’s state senators, Sen. Hansen Clarke, was re-introducing a bill that would pay Detroit students for improved performance in school and on standardized tests.
The move came after the latest statistics gathered on Detroit schools placed the district’s high school graduation rate in 2009 at 58%. The district also unfortunately posted the lowest reading and math scores ever in the history of a national standardized test. As various officials scramble to revamp the way the district is run and try to figure out ways to raise individual student achievement, Clarke is convinced he’s found an incentive that will work.
Others disagree. The debate has been raging since last summer when Clarke first introduced the bill, and Mlive quotes Detroit Parent Network’s executive director, Sharlonda Buckman, “This is not the message we want to send to our kids, that you have to get paid to learn.”
My son is a student at a Detroit-area school, in a district that is also, according to most statistical evidence, a failing one. When Detroit starts to debate things like paying kids to go to school, my school does too, often to detrimental effect. The fact that Sen.Clarke keeps re-introducing this bill tells me that he has some support for it, despite Time.com’s report that the study was, by its own author’s admission, not entirely statistically viable since it involved such a small group of children. There also was a lack of evidence that the incentives raised test scores or graduation rates, the two areas that Clarke and Detroit are most looking to improve.
For me personally, I don’t believe this proposal would ultimately be successful, but it makes me nervous about the state of the school system when Detroit, or at least some of its politicians, look to be grasping at straws. Would paying my child to learn help him do so? Probably not, and it may have unintended consequences in terms of jealousy or bullying from other students. High-profile but unachievable proposals make my child’s teachers nervous too, and it takes educators’ focus away from the children they’re supposed to teach when they feel they have to band together to defeat bills like Senator Clarke’s, which is what’s been happening the last few weeks.
My son doesn’t need to develop the expectation that he must have monetary incentives to succeed at school. He has to learn some self-motivation and drive on his own. Detroit needs to concentrate on techniques and concepts that are proven to work in large districts with large schools.
An article popped up in the New York Times this past week, talking about the Brockton High School in Massachusetts. It’s a school of 4,100 students that is succeeding at reading and writing goals because of the dedication and strategic planning of its teachers. As a parent, it would be nice to see Detroit incorporate some of their practical knowledge.
The more Sen. Clarke and others attempt to institute well-meaning but fallible proposals, the less time we spend on figuring out what works. Which harms all Detroit students, including my son.
Jonathan Oosting, “Should Detroit students earn pay for improved performance? State Senator pushes legislation.” Mlive.com
Amanda Ripley, “Pay for Grades: Should Parents Bribe Kids in School?” Time.com
Sam Dillon, “4,100 Students Prove “Small is Better” Rule Wrong.” NewYorkTimes.com