>REACT: Pay-for-Grades … more nonsense from education industry


As a long time education consultant, I take a special interest in the subject of urban education. I never cease to be amazed at the idiotic stuff the education industry comes up with to pretend to reform our city school systems which they do not really wish to reform. That is why decades of so-called “reforms” have failed at the bottom line – student performance.

These are the folks who have jerry-rigged test scores to make results look better. They promoted black vernacular under some notion that black students cannot learn English. They produce Spanish-only education, insuring that Hispanics will not matriculate successfully into the American culture (<= read that, good jobs). They invented “social promotions” to shove ill-prepared kids out of their classrooms and schools. They keep students held prisoners in substandard schools rather than embrace school choice. They have opposed every effort to rid the schools of unqualified and underperforming teachers. Because diplomas are now meaningless as indicators of a student’s knowledge, the education lobby offers special senior year testing to see who has skill levels and who does not. They have shortened the school day and school year to provide more time off for teachers and less education time for students. (You wonder why the Asian education system is killing us).

Now cometh the newest doomed-to-failure idiocy from the folks in Chicago.
In 20 schools students will receive cash on the barrel head for grades. Not only does this create the wrong incentives. It violates every notion of the purpose of education as a life-long process. More importantly, however, it will further corrupt an already corrupt system. With that added incentive of money (the source of all corruption), students, parents and teachers will game the system. We will see superficial success in the improvement in grades, but it will not indicate an improvement in learning. The system will dumb down the grades even further to get the money. Simple as that.
This is a form of bribery – paying money for something that should be accomplished without monetary compensation. Oh! Wait! This is Chicago, where bribery, of one sort or another, is the only way to get things done.
We are not talking allowance and lunch money. A straight-A student in one of the select school can “earn” up to $4000. But even Cs can get you money. Being average, even mediocre, is no barrier to financial rewards. The kids get half the money with the grade, and the other half is reserved for them until they graduate.
Now, my cynical mind wants to know … where is the reserved money kept? Is it just a down the line expense that will have to be funded later. That’s one of the major problems already. Or … will the money be preserved in some sort of escrow account that can be manipulated for maximum political benefit like the underfunded retirement accounts? Either way it is a loser for the taxpayers.
Presumably, if this “experiment” is successful, all Chicago students well reap the rewards. Students who naturally get A’s simply now get a windfall of money from the cash starved school system and the overburdened taxpayers. This idea generated out of the academia sector of the education industry – specifically the Education Laboratory of Harvard University. In other words, we have a theoretical solution from those who spend their life with theoretical problems. I would be more impressed if Harvard would launch a program to pay there students for good grades. Don’t hold your breathe for that one.
Well, for a while this will produce some faux results, and eventually slip in the recycle bin of history only to be replaced by yet another non-start idea from and industry more interested in the appearance of reform than the reality. Urban education will not improve until we get it out of the hands of the entrenched liberal establishment that sees the primary purpose of education as the perpetuation of their political power.
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