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Making Bucks while Hitting the Books April 22, 2008

Posted by twilightandreason in Higher Education.
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The decision of Fairburn, Georgia school officials to pay students to earn good grades may seem like the ultimate expression of desperation. Indeed, to pay students for something that is, fundamentally, both a right and a privilege seems a bit off the mark.

And yet it appears that paying students to learn has the capacity to motivate the community’s sizeable population of at-risk youth to prioritize school over the other distractions — family strife, alienation, economic struggle, street violence, and peer pressure — that compete for the attention and energy of troubled teens. Indeed, over 90% of the students who participate in the “Learn and Earn” programs at Creekside High School and Bear Creek Middle School (both in Fairburn, Georgia) are low-income students of color.

Odette Yousef describes the origin and details of this program in this transcript of her report from this today’s edition of NPR’s Morning Edition:

A pilot project sponsored by a local foundation is offering a group of low-income students $8 an hour to go to after-school study sessions twice a week.

Jackie Cushman, engineer of the Learn and Earn program, said she hopes the money will get the kids into the classroom, but that, once there, they’ll start to enjoy learning.

Cushman is the founder of the Atlanta-based nonprofit Learning Makes a Difference. She’s also the daughter of former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who suggested paying low-income students to improve their grades in a 2005 speech at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Cushman launched Learn and Earn this year after an Atlanta businessman offered to sponsor it, and Creekside High School in Fairburn, Ga., and neighboring Bear Creek Middle School fit the right profile for it. More than 60 percent of the students are considered low-income; more than 90 percent are minorities; and the schools trail district-wide achievement rates by eye-popping margins.

Click HERE for the full text of this transcription.

Not surprisingly, the “Learn and Earn” program has faced with a lot of criticism, especially from those who fear that this program inhibits it’s young participants from developing an appreciation of learning for learning’s sake.

While these are understandable concerns, I come down on the side of Cushman and other supporters of “Learn and Earn.” Like Cushman, I believe that paying kids to learn now is simply a way of engaging them in a process that they will, as they mature, come to value in and of itself. I don’t really care why the kid sin this program are getting good grades. I am more interested in the fact that a previously disenfranchised student population has found a way into academic achievement. A sense of the inherent value of education will come along the way; as these young men and women gain access to college and careers they will begin to see the value of learning, above and beyond the small sum they were paid for good grades and study habits in junior high and high school.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

 

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1. Engineer » Making Bucks while Hitting the Books - April 22, 2008

[…] Java Forums wrote an interesting post today on Making Bucks while Hitting the BooksHere’s a quick excerptJackie Cushman, engineer of the Learn and Earn program, said she hopes the money will get the kids into the classroom, but that, once there… […]


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