Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cash for grades?

An interesting article from the generally awful New York Post reports that last years privately funded initiative to reward minority  (black and hispanic, not asian) students with monetary rewards in exchange for passing AP tests has failed. In fact, the number of these students who passed the AP exams actually decreased from last year.

The laughably misguided quote of the article is here:

"Those behind the privately funded initiative said they saw many positive results on which to build, including an 8 percent increase in the number of AP tests taken and a 19 percent increase in students scoring at the top point level."

So, more kids took the tests and less passed? I call that a disaster.

What actually happened should be obvious... the students who were already motivated to do well did even better. Students on the bubble overreached by taking exams and failed them and of course the unmotivated students didn't even bother.

I suspect that it was a deeply disenfranchising experience for the middle-ground students and irritating to the poorer performers.

Surely the program was well intended but it obviously failed to address the underlying reasons why so many black and hispanic students perform poorly in academics. It's awfully difficult to get the correct answer when you don't know what the problem is.

I don't know the answer but I do know that public schools are not primarily structured around academic success. Colleges are set up to keep you in school as long as possible, elementary is daycare, junior highs are prisons, and high school is primarily designed to keep bands of criminal teenagers from roaming the streets while keeping the teachers unions happy. Not exactly ideal for solving this problem...

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