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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Some Schools are Now Paying Students to Attend

I’m blogging about commitment this week. I started yesterday with a post titled, “The Value and Cost of Quitting.” Here’s one solution to students who are unable to keep a commitment to stay in school.

Dohn Community High School, in Cincinnati is using a novel idea to get students to show up on time and attend class: money. Seniors are getting paid $25 a week to come, underclassmen are getting paid $10 a week. The good news: attendance was up in the first week of this payment program.

According to Chief Administrative Officer Ken Furrier, “Money is important to them. And we can’t teach them if they’re not there.” According to the Huffington Post, each week a student is paid, an additional $5 goes into a savings account, payable upon graduation. The program is underwritten by $40,000 given by private donors and Federal Workforce Investment Act dollars. “The target is graduation,” says Furrier.

Other schools in New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia are trying the same strategy—paying students to come to school. Many of them claim they’ve tried everything else and will do anything to get students to show up.

The bad news?  Hmmm. I wonder what will be the long-term result of such a move?

Critics say schools like this are rewarding students for basic things they should do already. My guess is we will have to wait and see if this is a viable long-term solution. My chief concern is—by doing this we continue to breed a sense of entitlement in students today, by rewarding basic virtues like attendance, punctuality, work, etc.

My secondary concern is—with a move like this, (while it does solve the problem in the short-term), does it diminish the internal motivation those students will need for basic life skills…as adults, when no one will give them money for “showing up.”

Dohn High School says most of the students are from single parent homes and often don’t attend because they have to work or must tend to needs at home. The school was designated by the Ohio Department of Education as an “academic emergency” last year. Their graduation rate last year? A mere 14%.

Going deeper, this seems to be yet another illustration of how we tend to create synthetic solutions for failing adults. Because 90% of the student population at Dohn Community High School is living in poverty and only 20% come from households with two parents, most are on their own and have little guidance from their family. So we throw money at the problem since we can’t solve it in the home. Sadly, families are failing all over, and our institutions will never be able to replace a father or mother who actually leads their children to live well.

Tell me what you think. Is paying students to attend school a viable solution?


  1. jp t. on March 6, 2012 at 9:50 am

    i thought i remember seeing a documentary last year that followed high school students who were paid for getting better grades; it was a voluntary program. by the end of the year, only 1 student had actually brought his grades up and maintained them. what they found in the study was that paying students only changed their study habits and desire to do better in the short-term.

    i agree with you on the point of reinforcing a sense of entitlement. i keep coming back to a question of where is a student’s responsibility, parent’s responsibility, teacher’s responsibility and society’s responsibility. i think it was jack johnson who said, “we all have our hand in the cookie jar.”

    • Tim Elmore on March 7, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      That documentary sounds very interesting! Thanks for sharing. It definitely seems like a short-term solution with long-term consequences.

  2. Trent Thomas on March 7, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    No.  School is free for them.  They should, by all means have to work to have the privilege to come to school.  Our tax dollars get them here and then we pay them on top of that?  I can understand paying for good grades maybe, but just to show up is ridiculous.  It only breeds a “right mentality” more in the ones who take advantage.  Teach a man that little is expected of him and you will get little of that man (or woman). 

    • Tim Elmore on March 12, 2012 at 8:10 am

      Great thoughts. It’s another example of how we are under-challenging kids.

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Some Schools are Now Paying Students to Attend