Paying High School Students to Show Up for Class Is Brilliant

Say What!? 14

piggy bankI'm pretty sure if you ask most adults if they want to go back to high school, they'd say you couldn't pay them money to make it happen. And yet that's exactly what a Cincinnati area high school is doing. They're paying teenagers cash money to show up for class.

It's such an odd idea it might actually work. Oh, I know what you're going to say. How dare they inject materialism into education? Knowledge is free! Education is to be treasured! Blah, blah, blabbity blah.

I'm completely sold on public education folks. And I still think this is a great idea.

The Dohn Community High School will be rewarding kids with Visa gift cards and creating small savings accounts thanks to a $40,000 incentive program. They'll get money not just for showing up on campus, but actually attending class and staying out of trouble. With 90 percent of the student population living in poverty, even small sums like $25 for seniors and $10 for underclassman has -- not surprisingly -- been welcomed by the kids.

And now for the kicker -- it's been so welcomed that more kids are showing up for school in a district where the graduation rate last year was just 14 percent. Quick, tell me something America, is it better to hold onto some idealistic notion that kids will thirst for knowledge or to actually have them show up for class and learn? I'm going to go with the latter.

I say this as your typical geek. I did love to learn. I did hunger to know more about the world. And if someone had told me I didn't have to go to high school, I would have gotten down on the floor and kissed their toes.

Even for kids who do love to learn, high school is not fun. It's a time when your body is a mess of hormones and you're being expected to get up much earlier than science says you should. Throw in bullies, piles of homework, and then all the crap at home -- especially in a poverty-stricken household -- and you have a powder keg just waiting to erupt.

Handing out money may sound crass, but for kids, it's a tangible reminder that what they're doing right now has value. It's in-your-face proof that solving quadratic equations may not seem like it's going to be useful at all, but there is a point in doing it. And, honestly, it's preparing these kids for college, when every minute of your education IS money, money being spent by your parents (or being loaded onto your shoulders via expensive student loans).

With each year's dropouts costing this country more than $200 billion (a figure that represents lost earnings and unrealized tax revenue over their lifetimes), is this really such a bad move?


Image via Razor512/Flickr

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i.hea... i.heart.nerds

I have losr all hope for America. When we allow our children to 1) not attend school and 2) get paid to do something they should be doing anyways. Seriously. I think this country is at a new low.

Right about now it would be better to raise a child in a third worod country, educatuon wise. All of those child fight daily to go to school. They all know what will happen if they don't get an education.

Parental failure at it's best.

jaxmadre jaxmadre

So how many educators and special programs had to be cut in order to fund this?
Kids should not get paid money to attend class. Their parents should be providing incentives, if needed.

vulca... vulcanarcher

They show up because of the money, then what?  Do they actually learn anything or are they just another warm body in the room?  As a teacher, I see a lot of kids in school because they have to be, and just go on to fail because they don't care.  I highly doubt that just paying these kids to show up will do anything for the graduation rate.  A lot of success in school comes from what's going on in their heads.  If they want to be successful students, then they will.  

If you are going to pay kids for going to public schools (and I have no idea where the $40,000 comes from...taxpayers maybe?), then my god, if you want it to be effective in anyway whatsoever, then you pay them for maintaining a grade beyond what's minimally required to pass!

Kaila... KailaCheyenne

I am a kid and I think this is a little ridiculous.. They can get money in the form of scholarships by showing up to class and working hard. Why are they paying them to do something they have to do anyway? Is the government going to pay my little brother every time he pees in the potty chair because that's what he's supposed to do? Let's just pay us for listening to our parents and teachers, too, while we're at it. That money could be going towards a lot of other things!

Marjc... Marjchaos

I have heard of this. Maybe if they truly wish to drop out, just give them a McDonald's job application and say Good Luck.

Teresa Kennedy

How many janitors do it because they love mopping pee out from under urinals? None that I know. Does that make their work any less valuable? No. If $25 gives a kid a reason to show up, do the work, and graduate, improving their odds of success in life then I'm all for it. How much better will it be for them if th As for "getting paid to do something they should be doing anyway", that was known as ALLOWANCE when I was growing up. When you're poor, the short-term gain of getting a job outweighs the mysterious far-off "someday" benefits of education, so why not shake things up a bit and make the NOW a bit more tangible?

Eques... EquestrianMom

Ok, as a high school dropout, I can say I may have finished if school had paid. Literally, I dropped out because I needed to work to support myself and my family. I worked on ranches, and for a while, they were understanding and let me go to school and work before and after school, sometimes during but my teachers excused me and gave me make-up work. When push came to shove and we were facing losing our home, I moved onto a ranch to work full time for full pay and sent the money to my parents. No school.

 In an area where these issues are real, and parents cannot make ends meet, poverty to a level people cannot fathom is truth, paying kids to show up to school makes sense to me! 

Nycti... Nyctimene

I don't know if it's smart or stupid, whether it'll work or not...but I applaud them for trying something new. :-) At least it's a new, creative approach and not the same rehashed "Just tell them to go to school" or worse, "Put their parents in jail / fine their parents if they miss X amount of days!"

SwePea SwePea

Don't pay them to show up, pay high risk kids for high test scores! It works. It works in other countries to keep girls in school and off the streets.

Junie... Junie1234

This is truly infuriating.  I think its absolutly insane to pay children to go to school

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