Incentives

Julie in Rwanda sent me Time Magazine's cover story: "Should Kids Be Bribed to Do Well in School?"

You should read it.

Three reactions. Actually, four.

1. I was "bribed" to do well in school, I suppose. I'd get $5 for a good report card. We never called it "bribing." I wonder if Time ever ran "Should journalists be bribed to write articles?"

Basically, I agree with this sentiment: "Kids should learn for the love of learning. But (often) they're not. So what shall we do?"

2. Our charter school pays kids. Basically, the idea is to balance out the penalties. A kid earns small amounts by behaving well ("MATCH dollars") and you get small penalties (detention) for misbehavior. We copied this from other charter schools:

KIPP students get paid for actions they can control — getting to school on time, participating in class and having a positive attitude — with "money" they can redeem for supplies at the school store. Over the years, KIPP leaders, who now run 82 schools nationwide, have learned a lot about which rewards work and which do not. They have found that speed matters, for example. Recognition, like punishment, works best if it happens quickly. So KIPP schools pay their kids every week.

Actually, I think there's a lot of variation among KIPP schools in how their KIPP dollars work.

I'm not sure our school executes the incentives nearly as well as we could. (I'll write another post later, along these lines: I don't think we consistently execute anything that's non-core very well. We have big execution gaps and scores of dead initiatives.).

3. I'm a fan of Roland Fryer, the economist who ran these experiments. Three reasons. First, he's unconventional. Second, he's fierce, willing to stand up to hand-wringers who tell him "You can't do that." (You can even see it in how he handles his results...he picks a major publication like the NY Times or Time, gives them an exclusive, so they give it major play...which probably pisses off traditional scholars but who cares). Third, he keeps his eye on the ball of student achievement, no matter where it leads.

4. I learned something else. Roland got a hoops scholarship to UT-Arlington. I had no idea he could play.

Orin and I were in a meeting with him a few weeks ago. We challenged Roland's group (EdLabs) to a basketball game; we were talking smack about our prowess. This new factoid suggests: we'd have to play a box-and-1 on him, or at least give a lot of man help. Those other social scientists looked more dweeby, like they couldn't hit the open shot.

Even if you paid them.