CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS Begins "Money For Grades" Program!

Real Estate Agent with Dean's Team - Keller Williams Realty Partners Chicago IL

My Old Third Grade Teacher, Mrs. Davies, would probably spin around in her grave if she heard this one! 

Paying Chicago Public High School kids for their grades.  Not so bad for an A, perhaps.  But for a B?  Or, even a C?

It's about to happen as part of a new program designed by Harvard University, and now in place in select Chicago Public High Schools, affecting perhaps 5,000 high school freshmen.  Chicago schools are following the lead of public schools in New York City and Washington DC, begun earlier this year.  The Chicago Plan - "Green for Grade$,"  does not use taxpayer money.  All cash prizes are donated privately.

Under the test program, freshmen would be measured every five weeks in Math, English, Physical Ed, Science, and Social Studies.  Half of the cash would be paid up-front to the qualifying students; the balance at graduation.  Theoretically, a straight-A student could earn as much of $4,000 by the end of his sophomore year.

"The majority of our students don't come from families with a lot of economic wealth. I'm always trying to level the playing field," said Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Arne Duncan. "This is the kind of incentive that middle-class families have had for decades."

Freshman Jeremy Kellum has been getting C grades in most of his classes.  But up to $4,000 in cash incentives, however, might get him to keep his nose to the proverbial grindstone just a little bit more. 

"I do love green money. . . . I'll shoot for A's instead of slacking off, getting by with a C now," Kellum said. "My plan is to study more, to not play in class as much as I did last year, and basically pay attention to the teacher and take good notes and pass tests."

The experimental program starts with High School Freshman because research supports the fact that performance during the first year of High School correlates high with subsequent High School success.  Students are also more prone to dropping out during the first two years of high school.  This is why the cash incentive program ends with sophomore students.

Students who receive a failing grade of F in any of the five core courses will not be eligible for money until they score a C or better in the same class - either the following semester, or in Summer School.

The 20 selected High Schools were chosen via lottery out of 65 that applied.   According to Duncan, at these schools, the "overwhelming majority" of students come from families living below the poverty line.

One parent, Kelly Taylor, a Union Carpenter, out of work for several months due to the struggling economy, praised the program.

"It gives the students something to really shoot for, she already likes school it makes it better for her to meet her goals," Taylor said. "I can't afford to give $50 for every A."

Taylor's daughter, Freshman Amanda Navarro, agrees.  Although her father constantly tells her he's proud of her for getting good grades, she says, the financial incentives offer an added reward.

Stephanie Moore, Principal at Uplift Community High School in the Uptown Neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago, was skeptical with the program at first, contending is was not right to compensate students for the grades they earn.  She softened a bit, however, when she remembered her own financial hardship growing up, as a Chicago Public School student. 

"I thought kids should want to get good grades because it's the right thing to do," Moore said. "Then I saw the kids' enthusiasm and I thought this would be a great incentive for kids who want to do the right thing, who don't want to be on the streets."

Read more via, with a link to Carlos Sadovi's story in today's Chicago Tribune.



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Erik Hitzelberger
RE/MAX Alliance - Louisville REALTOR-Luxury Homes - Louisville, KY
Louisville - Middletown Real Estate

Dean - This is a concept that would be interesting to monitor.  I wonder what the group's goals for graduation rate and test score improvements is.

Sep 11, 2008 03:38 PM #1
Robert Worthington
Worthington Realty - Manitowoc, WI

The motivation is for money?  Hmmm.......   If I were dead I'd be turning over in my grace as well; this is completely insane.

Sep 11, 2008 03:43 PM #2
John Novak
Keller Williams Realty The Marketplace - Las Vegas, NV
Henderson, Las Vegas and Summerlin Real Estate

"Half of the cash would be paid up-front ..." -- I could see this working a lot better if the cash was kept in a scholarship fund for the student. I'm wondering how many save the money for future education as opposed to impulsively spending it.

Sep 11, 2008 03:48 PM #3
Kim Murphy
1st Advantage Mortgage / Draper and Kramer - Carol Stream, IL
Mortgage Loans in DuPage, Kane, Cook, Lake, Will C

Dean... I heard this on the news tonight!  I have offered my daughter to stay on honor roll all year and next year when she gets her license we will look for a used car for her.  I guess whatever motivates them! 

Sep 11, 2008 03:55 PM #4
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

We are all motivated by different goals /rewards in our life.  If this program creates the incentive for students to get excited about learning, I think it is great.  They may find that learning has rewards far beyond the money!

Sep 11, 2008 04:00 PM #5
Dianne Deming
RE/MAX Realty Group - Rehoboth Beach, DE

I never believed in paying kids for grades, whether privately in my own family or publically (although this is the first time I've heard of such a program).  In a perfect world, the joy of learning should be motivation enough and I always wanted my children to want to learn for learning's sake.  I still believe this, but I do not pretend to even begin to understand the challenges students, teachers and administrators face in some schools and districts where simple survival is much more of a struggle than I've ever experienced.  If monetary incentive is what it takes to keep kids in school, then I agree with John that the money should be held in scholarship accounts for those who earn them and not handed out as cash.

Sep 11, 2008 04:00 PM #6

This is Chicago. Soon, we will be hearing about teachers getting a cut.

Sep 12, 2008 10:47 AM #7
South Austin Real Estate Blog
Sky Realty South Austin - Austin, TX

I have heard this program works in other schools where the neighborhood is at poverty level.. it separates the kids who do want to learn and those who are at least trying.. now they have a great incentive. I don't know the dollar amounts but I think its a great idea to get a kid to graduation.. to a job market where he/she could have learned something about the value of a hard earned dollar.  I can see it making a difference in society.  Give it a chance and see how it goes.

Sep 12, 2008 11:02 AM #8
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