New trend in schools has administrators handing out cash to students who perform well in class. Such incentives have educators and students split in opinion.

By Eman Albash

Springtime is a season of renewal and growth that brings warm sunshine, blooming flowers… and for all Ohio sophomores, the Ohio Graduation Test. Students typically do not look forward to taking this exam, so in the spring of 2007, principal Kip Greenhill offered a reward for all sophomores—if the class had the highest passing rate in the county, he would give each sophomorea $5 Chipotle gift card. This incentive appeared to work, because at the beginning of the next school year, all former sophomores went home from school that day with a Chipotle gift card in hand. In a growing number of schools in the United States, high scores on exams or report cards do pay off—literally. Some high schools in Illinois, Maryland and New York give students cash or prizes for doing well in school.

Each school differs in its policy of rewarding students, however. Leslie Postal, author of the Oct. 22, 2008 Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel article “Cash Incentives for School Grades” wrote that high school students in Chicago are paid $50 for every A they receive on a report card, $35 for every B and $20 for every C. Other schools pay students for getting an A in an AP class, while some give money to students who get a four or above on an AP/IB exam. Teachers and students have mixed opinions about the topic, but students who work hard in school are typically in favor of getting paid.

Senior Leslie Schroer is in favor of the added bonus, knowing the incentive would reward her academic record.

“I feel like I am trying almost my hardest right now,” Schroer said. “So I probably would not change that much, but [getting paid] definitely would be a nice motivator to keep going.”

Greenhill, however, said he is opposed to the idea of paying students for their achievements for a number of reasons. “I just do not like the idea that to do your best effort, you have to get paid. That is not the way the world is,” Greenhill said. “I think people have to motivate themselves from within.”

Although Greenhill did give students an incentive for the OGTs, he said this was different than paying students for good grades. “The OGTs was just a one-time thing,” said Greenhill. “[The incentive] made it more fun for the students.”

Despite the controversial practice of giving money to students, more schools are deciding to adopt this policy each year. According to the Sept. 20 New York Times article “Cash Incentive Program for Poor Families Is Renewed,” by Julie Bosman, a group called the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporate will provide the funding to pay students at colleges in different states, including Ohio. The goal of the MDRC is to see how paying students for doing well in school improves their grades and attendance. Schroer said that incentives may help her stay motivated, but overall, she remains neutral about the idea of getting paid for academic achievements.

“If the school can afford [to pay students,] I do not think it is a terrible thing,” Schroer said. “At the same time, students should take AP classes because of college credit or to challenge themselves, not necessarily to get paid.”