Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Paying Kids for Grades

Hey OPB listeners, check out what out erstwhile Central Oregon Bureau Chief, Ethan Lindsey, is doing these days: Freakonomics Radio!  Cool.

Alerted to this fact, I see that one of the first stories is on the idea of paying kids for grades to improve educational performance.  Sounds like a no brainer, right? Put the incentive right at the crux of the problem: learning is hard work so motivate kids to work harder.

Turns out this only sometimes works.  The reasons are still speculative but the most interesting theory is that only some kids 'know the production function.'  In other words, only some kids understand what they have to do to get better grades.  For them it is not just about effort but about learning how to learn.

Give lazy kids from educated middle class households money for As and it works great.  Give lower class kids from less-well educated households money and it often doesn't work out so well, because they don't understand what they need to do to get an A.

Sometimes money isn't the only answer.


Jeff Alworth said...

You should get on a program with the title "The Oregon Economics Blog Presents the Beeronomics Podcast." I'm a Facebook friend with April Baer, so maybe I can pull some strings.

jazzfreak11 said...

I totally agree with everything that this little study found out. Over at my website, we're teaching kids about how to learn and study and get better grades, and with some big motivation (such as money), it can really drive kids to USE EXISTING SKILLS to suceed.


HC said...

Sometimes its not only a matter of the kids knowing the production function but parents too. I was reading a paper (below) which asked if it was more or less effective to pay kids or their parents for school performance.

The study finds that for low SES families, it is better to motivate the kids while relatively high SES kids receive a greater benefit when the incentives targets parents (who presumably better understand the educational production function).