Paying Bad Students to Go to School Is a Great Idea

Rant 11

dollarsHere's a question: Would you go to work if you weren't going to get paid? I'm guessing probably not. And that's exactly why I think paying kids with "poor academic and behavioral records" to go to summer school is a brilliant idea. That's what the Washington, D.C. "Summer Bridge" program is all about -- 305 students targeted as "less likely than their peers to graduate high school within four years" are being paid $5.25 an hour to hit the books during summer break, in the hopes that they'll stick with the routine when the school year starts.

Of course opponents of the program are worried that kids who participate are going to end up thinking they deserve rewards for going to school from September to June, too, and that bribing kids to learn "sends the wrong message." Sure, these seem like valid concerns -- until you consider the way most at-risk teens are forced to live: Hand-to-mouth. Day-to-day.

This program was designed for kids who don't necessarily know how to think "big picture." Born into less-than-favorable socio-economic circumstances, they've spent all or most of their lives in survival mode, unable to think past where their next meal is coming from or how they're going to do their homework if the electricity gets turned off. The concept of working toward long-term goals is lost on kids whose entire existence has been defined by crisis -- one after another after another. Kids who wouldn't dare to bring up something like college to their parents, not when they can't even pay the rent.

These kids need more immediate incentive (and of course, they need money, too). Will they keep showing up for class when the paychecks stop coming? I have to hope that the answer is yes. I have to hope that a couple of good, productive months will open their eyes and boost their self-esteem to the point where they can starting thinking "big picture" at last. (I'm guessing that's why they call it the "Summer Bridge" program.)

Do you think paying at-risk teens to go to summer school is a good idea?


Image via 410 (K) 2012/Flickr

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Tori Dockter

this is an absolutely dumb idea, not to mention completely unfair to the students who actually chose to work hard in school. why should under-achievers get rewarded for what good students get nothing for?

stork... storkneedsgps

Who is paying for the program? My school can barely afford to pay for teachers and buses.

nonmember avatar BeMyGuest

Dumbest idea ever.

Miche... Michelephant

What about good students who also are from low income families?  Will they sacrifice their good grades to go to summer school and help support their households?  I think there are too many issues with this kind of program for it to have lasting success. 

Bigme... Bigmetalchicken

This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Your payment for going to school and doing well is a good education.  But by all means, lets keep rewarding the slackers and losers.  That makes total sense.

right... rightside

storkneedsgps (funny!) - the school district is paying for it.

In general, I don't think making people comfortable where they are is incentive for change.  People will only take the initiative to change their reality when reality becomes more unpleasant than the effort it takes to change it.  We have generations of welfare-dependent families to show that these 'temporary' programs, meant to spark change, don't generally work.  The fact that this program is, apparently, temporary for summer session only, there's a chance that these kids may grow to appreciate the feeling of being rewarded for appropriate behavior and/or having 'earned' some money for doing what's expected - and when the program ends, they'll be motivated.


amazz... amazzonia

what's brilliant about that? encouraging good students to become bad students?! maybe they should pay good students so the bad ones see that if they are good they get reworded?! it's really true, this world is all upside down

NatAndCo NatAndCo

How is this great? its just another program rewarding laziness. If they need help in certain areas help them that way. Not enough food? Fine, help feed them. Can't afford school supplies or books? Fine, help them out. Don't reward them for doing what they should be doing anyway.

curio... curious1145

This has got to be one of the most absurd things I have ever heard. Some kids who want a summer job can't even find one. So now,if they do bad in school during the year,they get an automatic summer job. In many cases (not all of course), kids do bad in school because they're lazy. So summer school is like a punishment. I guess we should start paying kids to sit in detention now too. Parents need to parent and make sure their kids go to school and take education seriously. Paying them is definitely not the answer. And what about smart,hard-working kids who might purposely do bad in school if their family needs help financially? If the schools have extra money (which they don't), they can offer paying jobs during the summer to good students who want them. This is the most backward-thinking I have ever heard of.

nonmember avatar sierra

While I can see why people will be upset, I think it's important to teach kids the literally monetary value of getting an education. If a kid is doing well in school, their parents are already understanding and instilling that. Rich or poor. But if a parent doesn't value an education, the child is not going to get it. Someday, some business/agency/etc will pay them a certain amount of money based on what they know. It's not a bad thing to learn that early on.

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