Incentivized Learning? Charter School Pays Students to Come to Class

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Money makes the world go ’round, and apparently it also makes students at one of Cincinnati’s high schools actually come to class.

Dohn Community High School is an alternative charter school in the city, pegged as sort of a “last chance” for teens who have dropped out to turn their lives around. After “trying everything else” to get it’s students to come to class, Principal Ramone Davenport found money would do the trick. Last week the school starting an incentive program that pays seniors $25 per week and underclassmen $10 weekly in Visa gift cards for showing up to class every day, being on time, and behaving in school. Every week a student is paid, an additional $5 goes into a savings account that will be paid out at graduation.

Aware of the criticisms, Principal Davenport told Fox 9:

“People will say you’re rewarding kids for something they should already be doing anyway, but they’re not doing it.”

The odds are stacked pretty heavily against the kids as well. About 90 percent of Dohn’s students live in poverty and fewer than 20 percent are in two-parent households. The 14 percent graduation rate for the 2010-2011 school year has also caused the Ohio Department of Education to label the school an “academic emergency.”
“The target is graduation,” School Chief Administrative Officer Ken Furrier said. “We do almost everything we can to get the kids there.” In a separate interview, he added, “Money is important to them. We can’t teach them if they’re not here.”

Private donations and federal Workforce Investment Act dollars are funding the program which is expected to cost $40,000. Only time will tell if the incentives actually work and translate into higher graduation rates, but as some have pointed out, what happens when these kids graduate and the incentives for doing what you’re supposed to do stop?

What do you think about this program? Is it necessary considering these kids’ circumstances or does it send the wrong message?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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