• Ted Fraser

Cash for Grades: Should Hard Work Really Pay Off?

Rewarding students for getting good grades with money would increase their focus in class, motivate them to come to school, study and behave better, and could be beneficial to kids saving for university or, for students who belong to lower income families, would provide them with a helpful infusion of money.

Some of the kids in high school don’t see the long term benefit of doing well in high school and a short term incentive, like money, could encourage them to further invest themselves. For some, what better incentive could there be to study for a test or do homework than getting paid to do so? Skilled CHS badminton player and IB student, “Nervous” Jake Sajko says, “If students got paid they would have motivation to prioritize school work over other activities and subsequently excel in school.”

Also, behaviour and attendance would improve if students knew they were losing out by acting up or cutting class.

On the constructive side, each student could have the opportunity to open a personal account and keep track of their finances. Things like unexcused absences, suspensions and consistently not finishing homework would result in a withdrawal from their accounts. Alternatively, scoring well on a test, exam or assignment would result in a deposit.

To encourage proper use of the funds, the students who are saving for university or who are using the money to help support their families could have their balance appreciate by a specific rate each month.

This would be a “real life” lesson, similar to being a member of the work force and being docked pay or terminated if you skip a shift or continually don’t finish your work by a deadline.

There are 121,000 students enrolled in the Nova Scotian public school system[1], and if we assume that 3/13 of them are in high school, you have around 28,000 high school students in the province. However, IB students, O2 students and others not following the provincial curriculum would not be included, so around 26,000.

Students get about one or two assessments a month in main subjects; a math course, an English related subject, and a science related course. That’s three to six assessments per month. If the reward for getting an ‘A’ was $100 per assessment, and there’s around 9 months in a school year, that’s anywhere from 27 to 54 potential paycheques a year. Looking at this situation very optimistically, if the average was 15 paycheques a year per student, it would amount to roughly $39,000,000.

HRSB’s budget for 2014-2015 was $434,000,000. 69% of this budget comes from the Province of Nova Scotia, 28% from the Halifax Regional Municipality, and 3% from other sources. In Nova Scotia there are around 720,000 adults who pay taxes[2]. Rewarding successful, deserving students would only be an increase of $4.50 a month for each of these taxpayers.

If this idea were implemented, it would increase the budget by 9%.

For students who are unable to score A’s in their subjects, an alternative reward system could be set up in which they are rewarded for personal improvement. As an example, for each percentage point that their average increased, they would receive a corresponding reward.

Students wouldn’t have to be the only ones benefiting from this. Teachers and principals could get a bonus (or deduction) on their salary depending on how well their students perform. Even parents could receive money based on their kid’s performance, attendance, and behaviour.

However, as good as these ideas may sound, no doubt they are a tiny bit idealistic. First of all, the money would have to be strictly monitored. If it wasn’t, the money could be spent any way the students wanted. This could present some issues. Also, the provincial government cannot just add $40 million to HRSB’s budget. Nova Scotians would have to agree with the idea and the provincial budget would have to be altered and increased to accommodate it.

Furthermore, it could increase cheating and stress levels amongst students. As well, it could corrupt the noble pursuit of knowledge with the more materialistic pursuit of money.

In conclusion, although it sounds appealing and relatively easy to implement, paying students for getting good grades will most likely never happen. It would require a paradigm shift and is simply too expensive and radical to carry out without any real, tangible evidence to support it.