Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Getting Paid to Get Tutored

Should schools pay students to go to tutoring? This is something a Georgia school district is trying. Show up for tutoring, and you get $8 an hour.

What is the goal here? Ideally, it should be to get students to make better grades and graduate. Wouldn't it make more sense, then, to pay for outcome rather than for process? We are paying students for "intention" -- they showed up for tutoring, so they intended to do well -- rather than actual results. Of course, if we are paying students, they aren't really intending to do well so much as intending to get paid. I can hear the students now -- younger versions of a student I had last semester, who said to me "I'm not here to learn anything about interdisciplinary studies, I'm in here so I can graduate" -- saying, "I'm not hear to learn anything, I'm here to get paid." And if they don't study, what are you going to do? Fire them?

If we turned it around and paid students for outcome, I can see all kinds of problems. Such a plan would be seen as "unfair" because smart kids would naturally do better and, thus, make more money. You would also have short-sighted college-bound students wanting easy grades for easy money taking easy classes that wouldn't prepare them for college. One could solve that by making the academic classes worth more, but then we get back to the former problem. Also, I would argue that to pay students for doing well, the difficulty factor would have to be increased dramatically. Otherwise, we would just be giving money way to no real purpose.

It's good that people are thinking of different ways to improve education in this country, but I'm not sure this is quite going to get it.
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