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?

Some Schools are Now Paying Students to Attend