The Price of Grades

What marks do I need to score this?In a recent article in the Vancouver Province, it described an initiative started by a community to pay their children for getting good grades.  After reading this, my heart began to race and I was floored.  How could an entire community believe that extrinsically motivating (bribing) kids into getting good grades was going to help with their learning?

Many of us have read from Alfie Kohn and Daniel Pink about the harm of using extrinsic rewards for learning and how this can actually inhibit students from participating in higher level thinking, risk-taking, and deeper learning.  Kohn has stated, “the more you reward someone for doing something, the less interest that person will tend to have in whatever he or she was rewarded to do.”

So why is it acceptable to pay kids or reward kids for learning?  These tactics may work very short term but what about the harm that it does in the long term?  What happens if the reward is removed?  Will the student still see value in learning?  What is the going rate for an A; is there inflation?

I was so fired up that I went in the staff room and showed some staff the article.  A few staff members were appalled, some didn’t really have much of an opinion and one teacher said, “I think it is a good idea”.  WHAT?!?!  I asked her to continue and fill me in on how this is a good idea; she continued, “well, the system is not working for these kids, the community is probably frustrated that the system is not changing, so they are trying something.”  I gave every reason why this was a bad idea (places focus on grades rather than learning, students become more worried about the reward than the process, etc) and we agreed to disagree.

Later in the day, I started to reflect on the words of this teacher.  I started to begin to see what she was saying.  The system is not working for many kids; they are not motivated by grades and their learning is not being personalized in a way that is meaningful and relevant.  So if one extrinsic motivator (grades) is not working, and their intrinsic motivational needs (Autonomy, Master, Purpose – from Daniel Pink) are not being met, the community felt they had no choice but to increase the extrinsic motivator by adding cash.

Boom.  Although I 100% disagree with using money as a carrot/bribe for achievement (please do not do this), the real problem is a system that is failing far too many students.  The system is not relevant to many kids.  (It is far worse when people have the ability to change the system and choose to resort to paying kids for grades like the Chicago Public Schools “Green For Grades” Program).

In BC, there is plenty of talk these days around “personalized learning”.  In order for us to make school more “personalized” and relevant to students we need to change the focus on achievement and grades to more of a focus on the process of learning.  The curriculum needs to be altered (made smaller) so teachers have the time and flexibility to bring in topics and learning activities that are of interest to students.  Students also need a much bigger voice in what and how they learn.  Schools should be a place where students can come and have the opportunity to learn something in which they have an interest, not be forced to learn something in which they have no interest.

I have taught grade 1 through grade 12 and as they grow older, many students seem to lose their sense of curiosity and learning – a primary student has yet to ask me, “Is this for marks?`while this is a common question in most high school classes.

So what happens to this inquisitive learning nature in children? Why do some feel the need to have to resort to bribing students into doing well at school?  As students move up through the system, the societal and educational focus shifts from learning to grades and from the child to the curriculum. Some of the teachers at our school have stated that they would love to just teach what is meaningful to their students but they are pressured from society and the Ministry of Education to define student learning in the form of a single letter or number. Too, they feel pressure to make sure they get through the mandated curriculum.

So what is worse: paying students to get good grades? defining learning with a single letter? forcing a student to fit into a system that may not be relevant to him/her?

Every student and educator WANTS to do well. We need to change the system so that they all CAN do well (Dr. Ross Greene).  If we create an education system in which educators and students have the flexibility to make learning truly personalized and meaningful to students, people will not have to resort to the behaviourist theory of using harmful bribes and extrinsic rewards such as grades and money.

Let’s work together as educators, parents, students, and community members to create this change so there is no reason to consider the price of grades.

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Chris Wejr

Proud father of twin girls and a son. Currently working as the Principal of Shortreed Elementary School (K-5) in Aldergove, BC, Canada. Passionate about instruction, strengths-based education and leadership, reconciliation, assessment, and human motivation.


  1. Love the Ross Greene reference Chris.
    Isn’t it all about the authenticity of discovering, learning… I’m not opposed to grades per se, but they have also to be meaningful to the student. Let’s bring students in to the curriculum planning and the grading processes.
    It’s like golf to me- I choose the course I want to play and how I want to play it, and I only grade my score against my previous score o ht e same course, all weather and playing partner variables aside;o)
    Good points, thanks.

  2. Very nice and thoughtful post, Chris. I am really interested in curiosity and play in learning environments as intrinsic motivators. At the Creativity World Forum in November, I saw some students create a popupschool – an on-demand, student-driven learning environment that included autonomy and purpose in a way that was really creative and unique. You can learn about their project here: http://www.creativepioneers.weebly.com.

  3. We are hearing similar discussions here in NY, especially with the new ‘Race to the Top’ components. No matter what factors there are it can’t be about what is taught, but rather needs to be about what is learned. (and in order to motivate students to want to learn we need to provide them with ways to explore and investigate meaningful authentic tasks that involve autonomy, purpose and mastery.)
    thanks for the post, we can’t hear it enough

  4. I saw that on the news the other night and wondered if you would be making a comment on it. I wonder if the students being paid to get their grades will want to be ‘paid for’ anything they do in their lives… helping their friends, family, community members when in need. Will they eventually/ever find a desire to complete a task for their own sense of achievement and pride? Not sure what message they will be getting with this payment for grades. It would be interesting to know what the elders in that community think about the pay-for-grades strategy.

  5. On Thursday of this past week, I gave an assignment that included reading and answering questions from a text. I was questioned on whether it was for marksand, further interogated how many marks each question would be worth. On Friday, this same group participated in a wide-ranging discussion on Native Rights, Women’s Rights, ethics, social justice and human rights. This is a Tourism class and this discourse was sparked by a comment regarding whether tourism could have both negative and positive effects on a community. Everyone participated, everyone spoke thoughtfully and no one became angry when someone else disagreed with them. No one asked if this was for marks. We explored a subject that was meaningful for them and I was so happy that I tweeted about my extraordinary students.
    In another area, I have been talking to parents and students as I work on IEPs and the theme that seems to be emerging is that, while these kids will have challenges learning, they WANT to learn something that is relevant and meaningful to them.
    I am torn on the “bribery” issue. I know that the current system isn’t working for this particular community. I know that there is a desparation to see success in this community and the idea of paying the students is one that is on the table. At this point, it should be there, as should anything else that could change lives. It deserves discussion and consideration (my understanding of one of the cases mentioned in the article was that they treated the math class as if it were a job and incorporated that motivation into the program). As a member of the community in question, I would prefer to make the education meaningful and relevant, but I am also unwilling to discard anything without due consideration.

  6. When I first read that article my reaction was just like yours, but then I also thought about what your colleague said…I can see both sides of the argument. I disagree, like you, with using money as an incentive, especially for something like this, but I can see where that came from.

    Here’s what always gets me: I agree that the system needs to change, but it really DOES need to be a system-wide change. I’m not a fan of homework and have had several conversations with colleagues about this. I can bring up Kohn and Pink and various other sources, but at the end of many of these conversations, I’ve been told: Well, you can do that at the elementary or middle school level, but then those students will go to high school or university and they will be unprepared and ill-equipped to handle school.
    And I don’t know how to answer that. Because the truth of the matter is that they’re right: secondary and post-secondary DOES involve a lot of homework.

    I’d love any thoughts on this. It seems those conversations go round and round…

  7. Hey Chris,

    I know that this seems like a scary initiative but look at the reason behind it. All of these initiatives are happening because people want to do what is best for kids. The heart is in the right place, but they are looking for something that they think will be an easy solution. Think of it this way though; they are willing to give money which is not an easy thing to do. The money doesn’t come from nowhere and you know that there is work that came from this. Since you know that the intent is in the right place with many of these people, you have to take that in account and work with them to see what will TRULY be beneficial to our kids. Finding engaging tasks for students is a way that they can focus their work (instead of working for money to give to them) and will reap benefits in the long term.

    The nice thing about these articles is that they ultimately say they care. Use that as your starting point when having these conversations.

  8. Also: I realize your post is mainly about incentive but it’s so closely tied to homework as well, which prompted that thought.

  9. Great read, Chris. Keep your teachers talking. We’ve socially constructed the system we have… we can socially construct a better one.

  10. Great post, and a really important discussion. Recently I’ve shifted my classroom to a collaborative community model that allows for students to learn and teach themselves. Wow, has it been rewarding.

    I wonder, if these schools could shift to this model, if this wouldn’t be more helpful to them. Instead, of paying students, invest that money into self-directed learners. I’ve found that students don’t want to be passive learners, and they’ll work incredibly hard if given the opportunity to do so.

  11. It is not an extrinsic motivator that is needed. It is a belief in the system. A belief by students, parents, teachers/educators, society of the purpose/value of education. If that belief is lost that is when we look to the green filler to make us happy, reward us, make us feel better for the moment. There is too much doubt and too many questions being asked right now. It is really quite simple… believe in the system and the system will work, pay more money for the system to work for your child, and you will just end up paying more money This is not about Kohn, or Greene, or different philosophies, this is about there being doubt in the system. When you stop believing, you stop learning.

  12. Thanks for this great post and concern! I have been struggling with this “solution”: Not motivated by grades…try cash?! Sorry, I just can’t “buy” this as a good thing. Good intent maybe, but it still saddens me.

  13. Here’s the crazy thing, Chris: If you surveyed the vast majority of the parents in your community, they’d probably support the program completely.

    Heck, many of them have been bribing their students for grades for a long while now!

    I’m actually starting to believe that practitioners are ready and willing to shift to more responsible models of instruction and assessment. I think the “Why This” and “Why Now” questions have been answered for most of us.

    It’s our communities that are resistant to change—not because they’re in favor of instructional practices that are unhealthy for kids but because they don’t know any better. They’re not reading Alfie Cohn and Company.

    Which is why we’ve got to do a better job building awareness in our stakeholders of the research behind the both the good and the bad practices that we’ve either embraced willingly—or been forced to adopt—over time.

    Does this make any sense?

  14. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post as this that article got my blood boiling as well. I always remember having this conversation with my mom when I was little about why I didn’t get money for good grades like my friends did. Her response was always, “Did you do your best?” “Well, yes.” “Then that’s reward enough. You’re the one that rewards yourself.” Wise words from someone with a grade 8 education. I am really struggling with our whole assessment process and how it does our kids a disservice. I am loving all the dialogue that is happening right now on this very subject and can’t wait to see where it leads us.

  15. What Bill said: “Which is why we’ve got to do a better job building awareness in our stakeholders of the research behind the both the good and the bad practices that we’ve either embraced willingly—or been forced to adopt—over time.”
    Makes really good sense to me!
    I have been asked in the past why my kids have such a good “work ethic” in school. Well, I know it is certainly not because I have paid them for chores, grades, etc.! It is something way more intrinsic and of personal value than that.

  16. @Sean – love the golf reference. I know that if I was forced to play at a narrow track year after year, I may improve or I may just get frustrated and try something different.

    @Shannon – interesting idea of the popupschool – we need more play and creativity in all our lives!

  17. @Dodie – the movement from focusing on teaching to focusing on learning is so crucial right now. Thanks for commenting!

    @Mom – paying for learning can have long term negative effects. I guess, like you said, if parents pay for grades, what else are they willing to pay for?

  18. @Robert Thanks for the great example of the power of making learning meaningful and engaging. As for the bribery issue – I think what George says sums it up – THEY CARE and they are trying to make something work. That is where the conversation needs to start.

    @Michal I, too, get this a lot as I am at an elementary school. When we removed the Awards part of our school, I had a few people state that we are not preparing the students for the next level. My response was that, although I think we do need to be concerned about the future, our school is not willing to harm students by doing things like rewarding them for behaviour/obedience and awarding only select few. We are now honouring EVERY student and nobody could argue the power of this. It is the hope that these conversations carry over into other levels of education. Thanks for the comment and comparing this issue to others such as homework and work ethic.

  19. @George – Well said, your last statement sums it all up – THEY CARE. Thanks for continuing the conversation.

    @Larry – I am excited to be part of, what I believe is, big changes to take place in BC education!

    @Shelley – The movement from being a class to a community of learners is so powerful. Hoping to see many more educators/students make this transition.

  20. @Mike Great to see you commenting Mr. de Wit! Yes, there is a lack of belief in the system and I think that, especially for our First Nation Communities, we can understand why. I agree that we need to believe though I also feel that changes need to made so that all students can feel that belief that they are learners and that school is meaningful.

    @Sheila I’m glad you are not “buying” into this. 🙂 Many families feel they have no choice but to try this and I think if we all work together and listen to our students, we can make school more meaningful so there will be buy-in in a much different manner. Thanks for commenting!

  21. @Bill It absolutely makes sense! I guess the question is “how” do we build more awareness with stakeholders. All parents want what is best for their child and they all do the best they can. As George said, they do it because they care. When the child is not motivated to learn, because the parents want their child to experience success, they offer a little extra incentive. We all want what is best for kids and that I guess that is where we start. It’s an honour to have you chime in here Bill!

    @Carlan My parents raised me the same way – I was always jealous of those kids who got paid for grades. I am thankful now as I think it did teach me that learning was not something to be extrinsically rewarded. You’re right – the conversation is happening and that is where we start. I, too, am excited to see where we go in the next few years. Thanks for commenting!

  22. Paying some students has been par for the course at the school I work at. Rather than basing it on grades, however, it is based on attendance.

    Is this a good thing? I have nothing to compare it to. If the incentive pay was removed would grad rates decrease? Would teenagers have less to eat and would there be further inequity than is already evident?

    Paying students is extrinsic motivation. But, as Bill said earlier, people like you, Chris, and those who read your blog are thinking in ways that are far more progressive than the majority of citizens. Reality check: MANY parents reward their children for a grade on a report card that they do not really understand!

    And, there is always the question of equality versus equity. What is that $ really going to. And that’s where, perhaps, the Band should consider attendance over grades a a measure for funding.

  23. @Angela That is a great point that many parents do not understand the report card; a single letter or number cannot begin to tell the learning that has taken place. There are some communities in a nearby district that pay their students for attendance. I think this boils down to the same issue question – why do we have to rely on cash to encourage students to go to school? If school as we know it changed, would they then attend? Now that the motivator of money has been used, can it ever be removed? Thanks for adding to the conversation!!!

  24. Reading your comments aligns with a news article I heard from Alberta today: an initiative for those with student loans to “volunteer” and have some of their loans forgiven. I’m as totally against this idea as I am to have incentives to encourage people to donate money to charitable causes.

    Those who never work hard to achieve a goal, or volunteer from an altruistic motivation, or donate for sheer goodwill, will never have an idea or understanding of self-satisfaction. No one else can describe it, and nothing else can replace it.

  25. I think it’s naive to say that extrinsic motivation isn’t ultimately authentic. How many of us would show up at work every day if we didn’t get paid? Without money as a motivator, our entire economic system falls apart. Given that our school district’s mission statement is “to develop responsible citizens through appropriate academic, career and social programs”, it seems that the economic aspect of motivation is valid (i.e., we want our students to grow up to contribute to society by having paying jobs). When I worked in Watts (L.A.), one of the biggest challenges we faced was students who had no hope. They gave up because of academic frustration, social fear, and economic hopelessness. Extrinsic motivators worked as a bridge for those kids. If we could give them a reason to try, we could often make them see what they were capable of, and they would begin to hope. Only then could we work on building intrinsic motivation for learning.

  26. I would like to thank Rebekah for that comment. It is what I was alluding to earlier. We seem to be mistaking money for grades from parents with the issues that exist in some of our communities. The value of education in this system must be considered with regard to differing values of the FN community and the relevance of the particular education. It must also be considered in light of the needs of that community. Presently, we punish our students who do not attend because they need to support their families, if they go hunting or fishing with their parents for example. The students in my community hunt for food, not for sport. The extrinsic value of money has the potential to alleviate a need in their lived experience, and if it starts to teach some of the responsibilities of the work for pay world, all the better. The value of intrinsic motivation is very important, one that we haven’t yet figured out with this community (indeed we disagree within our communities on what it looks like), let’s not discard anything without consideration.

  27. Chris, great post. I am hopeful that the current conversation in education in this province will consider this very topic. We beginning to see some districts make progress around the issue of grades and some momentum is being built in the right direction. Great to see such a strong contribution to the discussion. Thanks.

  28. This message was emailed to me by an educator. I thought I would (anonymously)include it in the discussion.

    Hey Chris,

    I enjoy teaching and I also like getting a pat on the back by the principal or super. telling me I’m doing a good job P.s. I also like getting paid!

    Kids are kids – they will internalize the rewards with age

  29. Hi all,
    More than any particulars in any of the comments, I think it’s great the conversation is happening at all! Anyone who read Shelley Fralic’s column in the Vancouver Sun last week (and the many, many comments regarding it) knows that public education is many things to many people. Too many think that returning to the “good old days” is the way to go. It is mind-boggling to me that people think the educational requirements of today’s students are the same as those of students from the 1950’s, 60’s or even 90’s. Education must evolve and it can only do so through strong leaders doing strong research and then opening the conversation up to many viewpoints. Congrats to anyone who is participating in these conversations!

  30. @Linda – wow, relieving debt for volunteering… kind of sounds like “paid volunteering”? Thanks for adding to this important conversation! I love your final statement.

  31. @Rebekah Thank you so much for having the confidence to say something that I am sure is on many people’s minds! What I really need to e3mphasize is that the solution of money is a short term solution to a problem… that never really fixes the problem. If we need to motivate students to come to school with cash – there is something wrong with school!

    We have to be careful when we compare school to a job. Getting paid to learn (although in this case, the stress is on the grades which does not always = learning) and getting paid a wage for a job are 2 different things. A job is (often)an agreement whereby another person hires you to do something for them and a wage is something that a person gets in return for labour. Learning should not be about labour, working for someone else, or wages; learning should be about the individual and not doing it for someone else. Paying students for grades is a slippery slope. Do we only pay students who are not motivated to come to school? What impact will this have on the students who are already coming to school and getting the “good grades”. Will there be a “minimum wage” for learning? What if the students say that the money is not worth it? Will the minimum wage increase? Also, what pressures will be added to families that are expecting this ‘income’?

    Great additions to the conversation Rebekah!

  32. @Robert Thanks for continuing the conversation as you represent an important voice. I think there are a few separate issues here: paying for grades, poverty, and the struggles of Aboriginal students. Paying for grades is an issue that much research (Deci, Pink, Dweck, Kohn, Meyer, etc) points to as ineffective and often damaging. The much deeper issues that affect many students are systems that do not align with important cultures as well as the impact of poverty. Paying students for grades will not solve the issue of poverty. Paying students for grades will not solve the problem that much of our system does not align well with the seasons and events of our Aboriginal students. Your voice is so important in helping to change this. Again, I cannot help to feel for the community that made this decision as they probably felt they had no other choice. A societal and systemic shift is needed so these attempted solutions is not necessary. Also, this is not a unique initiative – it has been tried with little success in many other parts of the US and with many parents. Toronto is discussing it right now. Thanks again for the great conversation!

  33. @anon You bring up a good point about a pat on the back. Pink talks about “if… then” rewards versus “now… that” rewards. An if-then reward is one in which a person knows ahead of time that if they do this, they will get that. This works when doing tasks that require little thought but hinders creativity. So for learning, it actually works in the opposite way than intended. A now-that reward happens after the fact and the person was unaware that it was about to happen (although Dweck talks about how we need to be careful HOW we use praise – ie. fixed vs growth mindsets). Now-that rewards can be effective to show appreciation – this is what a pat on the back is and this is different from a child knowing that if they get a good grade, they will get money.

    Another thing you state – they will internalize with age – made me think. Are we giving kids enough credit? If they will internalize with age, why damage things now? Why not help them to internalize things now so they do not have to do it later? We need to avoid doing things to kids which we wouldn’t do to an adult (Coloroso).

    And we all like getting paid for our jobs… but to be rewarded for high tests scores (ie. merit pay for teachers) can be very damaging. I don’t get paid to learn and I would not want my kids to learn that they only need to learn if there is a monetary exchange.

    Again, thanks for adding to the conversation as these are thoughts that are on the minds of many people.

  34. Thank you for the post, Chris. This reminded me of a session I enjoyed with Barbara Coloroso last year on our Pro D day. In her book: Kids Are Worth It, Coloroso cautions the use of extrinsic rewards. Praise/reward-dependent students become the bystanders in bullying situations. Research has shown that when you do something good it lights up the frontal part of the brain and when you provide a postive reward it highlights the addictions part of the brain. We need to provide encouragement, descriptive feedback, solid instruction with clear expectations and compassion for our students.

    This is a very interesting conversation and I am excited that so many people in our district are contemplating how to continue to implement personalized learning. I look forward to future discussions.

  35. Chris,
    I took the last ten minutes of class this morning and asked my students their opinion on this issue, it is one that seems to be resonating. The response was interesting. They said, essentially that they are already paid for grades. Depending on their ranking in the honour roll, they become eligible for money from the government for post-secondary education. They were not always happy with that as it did create a hierarchy within the class as to who was more deserving of the money, when there might be need in other areas. Generally speaking, they did not see cash as a motivator for coming to school and working hard (I dropped the good grades requirement after their comments and replaced it with trying your best). The response from the majority of the students was that they wanted teachers who cared for their education and were committed to helping them succeed. They found that they worked hardest for those that seemed as committed to their success as they hoped to be. Not really an eye opener that they wanted teachers who cared about them, but I was impressed with the discounting of money altogether in favour of the meaningful learning and the relationship (fortunately I am in favour of that). This group of students represented a cross section of communities, Native and non-Native and, I believe were of varied socio-economic backgrounds as well. All were in either grades 11 or 12. All are currently in an elective course with me and the cross section represented a variety of grade success as well. They did share stories where they felt they did poorly and told me that part of the lack of motivation was due to the teacher, although I did have to stress that they keep specific examples vague so that I could not identify the teacher or the course. They also liked the fact that they were asked. I just thought I would share as it was an interesting conversation.

  36. Great to hear the voice of some students on this,Robert! I mentioned to my oldest (18) what I was reading about in these posts….her first response was a concern that paying for grades would lead to more cheating.

  37. Before we figure out how to get kids to do things, we must first figure out if we should demand they do it. Traditional education is in need of a reformation, but if we simply embark on coercing kids to reconcile to the way school has been for what feels like forever, we may do more harm than good – especially if the future requires something different than what school was designed to do for kids.

    This is a discussion that needs to happen before we even discuss whether we have any business prying on kids’ extrinsic motivation – and sapping their love for learning.

    To argue that we should be using bribes and threats to “motivate” children is to grossly ignore what science tells us about this topic – not to mention what our hearts should tell us.

  38. Is it surprising that a society which is ruled by the almighty dollar believes that paying kids for grades will make a difference?

    “Extra” pay for teachers will also make us all better teachers, right? For too long, we’ve looked for the easy solution, and for some… that means throwing more money at the problem to make it go away.

    I just spent all day in phase 1 of a curriculum cycle, and we discussed a lot of options for our research questions. Assessment and reporting of progress was one of them. It made me think back to the reason for grades in the first place.

    I’m hopeful that some post-secondary educational institutions are looking past grades, class rank, and entry exams now. For students who care about continuing their education, perhaps some of the focus will become more about learning and less about what SCORE they receive.

  39. Looks like you touched on a hot subject here Chris. I’m not sure what I’m enjoying more – your post or the fantastic responses!

    I had a friend whose parents paid him for grades when I was in highschool. What I noticed was that it was a flash in the pan. It was temporal (candy, comics etc.). If you were to ask him a week after he received the cash what he spent it on it was on stuff of little substance. In fact, he probably wouldn’t be able to tell you.

    To me, it’s like feeding an addictive habit. You’ll only be happy until it runs out and then your insatiable appetite for more keeps kicking in. If it’s a “temporary” fix, is it really a worthy incentive?

  40. I full agree with the question – what is the going rate for an “A” … report cards just went out this past week, and I had a student ask if I could change their mark from a “B” or an “A” because it meant 5 more dollars for them … So if we don’t pay for grades it was mentioned that we should maybe pay for attendance … I’ve worked at a school where students received money for attendance – it did nothing for their learning … They were not motivated to try harder or get their courses completed faster, rather they would take their time, drag it out, the more days at school the more the guaranteed income – and we are talking only 10-20 dollars per attended day … To a student living at home this is still good money – 50-100 a week – 200-400 a month … Not too bad for having to be at school anyways … Sure -they saw their schooling as their job – get paid if I show up. Just showing up satisfied their contractual obligation, there was no expectation of work to be done, only attendance … Without the expectation of something tangible being accomplished at the end of the day … how are they, or how do we expect them to function after graduation – not to many jobs paying for just showing up … if there is no personalized value gained in the process of the doing or learning of the activity I question if there is any REAL learning going on … the curriculum has become a very neat and tidy system, almost sterile – textbook and worksheets, by this date you should be on this page … where is the exploration, the journey, the mentorship of the quest … it should be about the journey, and perhaps not the destination … I teach a variety of subject matter, but I try to keep one main theme – learning how to learn … I am really trying to focus on this this year … if I can get my class to learn how to learn, then they should be able to learn anything …

  41. I had a similar gut reaction to yours… WHAT? How can we reward with money? What message is that sending… I blogged about that same article a few weeks back – and yet, like you said there is a core question here. Something hasn’t tweaked for these kids. They’re lost in a system they don’t feel is relevant to them, purposeful, or will really have an impact on their future. We need to have more individualized learning – teachers that move beyond the textbook to what truly interests students. I’d love to see the money be spent rather in answering that (albeit very difficult) question than create an insatiable desire for outside rewards. Could you imagine such a society???

  42. @Robert Wow, what a fantastic idea – we need to do more of this – actually ask the kids! I think by paying them for kids, we don’t give them enough credit. Thanks so much for adding this important voice and piece to this conversation!

    @Michelle Great tie-in with the merit pay idea! I also wonder how many “top” universities miss out on the students who challenge the status quo and make a real difference in their communities. Often, those with top scores are those that play the game of school really well, not necessarily those that are the difference makers.

  43. @Brad Agreed. If you pay something once, do you expect them to do it for “free” the next time? And by paying for learning, we are asking students to do something for us, rather than doing something for them.

    @Karl Thanks for posting buddy! Next step? Twitter and blogging! Paying for grades and paying for showing up does not change the fact that school is not relevant. This needs to change. Thanks for adding to this discussion!

  44. Great article, Chris, I like your writing style and agree whole-heartedly with the sentiments. I wrote about the same in my last two posts, but yours puts mine to shame. I have just finished reading Alfie Kohn’s book. Scary. I’m seeing carrots everywhere I look now, even in the fridge 😉

  45. @David I hear ya! It is amazing how often we use carrots to persuade kids! Being aware is so important. Thanks for commenting!

  46. Chris – great post and amazing follow-on discussion. I will admit it… we paid our kids for grades, not a lot but we did… I think the problem is simple actually, grades are extrinsic therefor parents find extrinsic ways to reinforce or highlight their value. On their own, grades are meaningless – there’s no way to compare an “A” from one teacher with one from another. It’s really quire artificial.

    So perhaps, paying for grades is fine as long as that’s the system we have. As you say, we need to change the system. Change what assessment and reporting is, make sure learning is meaningful and engaging. Leverage Daniel Pink’s ideas in Drive to ensure learning is mostly intrinsic. We need a system that is designed for mastery not simply to cater to parents and universities need to “believe” kids and students are sorted correctly…

    BC can lead the way! Thanks for this conversation – maybe you can get the Ministry of Ed’s attention with it hey. Cheers.

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