Paying students to raise test scores works?

Well, not really.

From Anya Kamenetz at NPR:

There’s a whole body of research on the idea of paying students to work harder in school and get better grades. Harvard’s Roland G. Fryer Jr. is most associated with this work. His research shows a range of outcomes, but quite small results on average.

Steven Levitt, of the University of Chicago and Freakonomics fame, has also done an experiment showing test score improvement with immediate rewards. But again, this seems to work best as a short-term intervention, not something that can improve school performance over the long haul.

In fact, psychology research suggests that paying students to do well in school could be counterproductive. It creates what is called “extrinsic,” or external, motivation, which can paradoxically reduce students’ intrinsic, or internal, motivations.More.

We’ve come a long way from when people were paid to do a boring job. Now they need to be paid to do what is in their own interests—always providing, of course, that the classroom learning is in the student’s interests. Trouble is, that’s not so clear any more.

See also: Land of the middle-aged teen


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  • Short term certainly, money never motivates over the long term.

  • Clausewitz

    Just do what they did in Ontario when the students couldn’t reach the level 3 standards of EQAO. Dumb down the tests.