Should K-12 students be paid to learn? At least four cities -- New York, Washington, Chicago and Baltimore -- have experimented with pay-for-performance pilot programs in recent years.
Under New York City's Spark initiative, which was developed in partnership with Roland Fryer of Harvard's Edlabs, seventh-graders earn up to $500 and fourth-graders as much as $250 based on good performance on 10 assessments. An analysis conducted by the New York Post found that roughly two-thirds of the 59 high-poverty schools participating in the Spark program improved their scores since last year's state tests by margins above the city average.
Thus far, pay-incentive programs are most prevalent in high-poverty areas, but perhaps they will become more pervasive if results are consistently positive. Is there a moral concern about paying students to learn? How should these programs be structured? How can children be transitioned from learning for cash to learning for its intrinsic merits?