Speak Out: Merit Pay For Students in D.C.

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Washington D.C.’s School Chancellor Michelle Rhee has announced plans to pay approximately 2,700 middle school students up to $100 per month in order to improve the district’s academic achievement in grades 6 through 8. D.C. middle schools rank at the bottom of all urban districts in the country—only 12% of 8th graders are able to earn a proficient rating for reading, and 9% of students are on grade level for math. D.C. middle school students could earn 50 points each month for improving their class attendance, manners, punctuality and grades and be paid $2 for every point they earn, starting in October. Dubbed “Capital Gains”, the program was created by economist Roland Fryer of Harvard University’s American Inequality Lab. Pay-to-learn programs have their critics; a program in New York City that offered students $1,000 for high scores on AP exams saw an increase in the number of tests taken, but an actual decline in the passage rate on the test. The $2.7 million cost to fund the program has been split between D.C.P.S and Harvard; the study will only be for one year.

Should students be paid for their improved academic and behavioral performance in school?

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