Lawmaker wants to pay students

March 13, 2009 2:40:14 PM PDT
Maybe some Texas high school students won't have to ask their parents to pay for good grades. A state lawmaker filed a bill this week that would create a pilot program designed to pay cash to students at low-performing schools for good grades in core subjects.

Freshmen could earn $50 for each "A," $35 for each "B," and $20 for each "C" in English, math, science or social studies. They would get half their money at the end of each grading period and the other half at graduation. They would also receive college and career counseling through the program.

Funding for Republican Beaumont Rep. Joe Deshotel's bill would come from $6 billion in federal stimulus money the state is planning to use on education. Deshotel's office said the pilot program doesn't have an estimated cost yet.

"If it does help cut down the dropout rate, which is unacceptably high in Texas, then we can look at expanding it," Deshotel said in Friday's editions of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Schools rated academically unacceptable would be selected through a lottery to participate in the pilot.

Other pay-for-grades programs are in place in Chicago; Baltimore; New York; Tucson, Ariz.; and Washington, D.C.

There is no strong research to show the incentives work, and some research shows such incentives can lead students to underperform, said Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College who has spoken out against paying students for grades.

"The downside to this is being ignored by those who support it, which is that once kids become accustomed to this, they become dependent," Schwartz said. "They'll want someone walking behind them the rest of their lives with an M&M to make sure they are rewarded for everything they do."

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