Thursday, March 20, 2008

A hundred bucks to go to virtual school?

I would love some input on this one. South Dakota received a $2 million National Math and Science Initiative Grant to pilot a program in which students receive $100 upon passing AP math, science, and English courses. The course must be taken through the state's virtual school. Apparently, the teachers will also receive $100 , though it is not clear whether they receive $100 for each child who passes, a one-time $100 reward if anyone passes, or $100 reward if everyone passes. Hmmm. Without revealing my personal opinion about this, I wonder:

  1. Will this program motivate students to take an AP course who would otherwise not consider this path?
  2. Will it motivate students to take an online AP course if it is not offered at their home school?
  3. Will it motivate teachers to teach differently in the hopes of having more students pass the AP test?
  4. Is this the best way to spend a $2 million grant to enhance math, science, and literature education?
  5. Does this in some way diminish the credibility of AP courses and/or virtual schools?
  6. What does the research show regarding payment for passing grades?
  7. Is this incentive likely to increase attendance in AP courses, increase attendance at the state's virtual school, both, neither?


Jay Bennett said...

Answers to your questions:

1)I think it might move kids that otherwise may not have been inclined to take it.
2)Hopefully it will allow more kids the opportunity to take these AP courses.
3)It shouldn't, the teachers may change the curriculum to match the AP requirements, but their teaching should be the same.
4) It's hard to say if that's the best way to spend $2 million, I can definitely think of worse!
5) I don't think it diminishes the credibility of either institution.
6) Aren't teachers already getting payed for passing grades? I don't think it's a major issue. I have no idea if any research exists.
7) I think this will increase the attendance in both programs.

JeanneW said...

I tend to have a problem with cash rewards for academic achievements. My own kids only got ice cream cones for major achievements, while their friends got cash. Straight A's on a report card - ice cream cone. College admission - ice cream cone. It's a family joke.

Still, I know many kids are accustomed to cash rewards for achievements, and passing an AP exam is certainly an achievement. Most folks probably think it's a good idea.

To me, a cash payment for passing an AP exam ONLY if the student took an online course to prepare diminishes the credibility of online learning. I think the attributes of online learning are significant and shouldn't need cash incentives to attract customers.

On the other hand, this program may help the community become more aware of online learning options. That would be good.

I also believe the teachers should not get cash payments when kids pass the tests, though I know many will disagree with me.

Great post!

Mark said...

I'm not sure about this situation. I'm not familiar with AP courses in general. I'm curious to hear your opinion now. :) My favorite question you wrote is the one about that being the best way to spend 2 million. Offering the money doesn't seem so bad, but it seems like the money could be used more wisely. I have to think more about this...

J-Lang said...

I'm not sure about any definitive answers to your questions, however, it does make me consider possibilities. I know within my own school AP course opportunities are somewhat limited and this next year teachers must have a minimum of 25 sign up or they will not be able to have the class, which has not been the case in previous years (15 was the minimum). Among many upperclassmen in my high school, dual enrollment through a deal with our local community college has been far more popular than AP, mainly because there is no test involved at the end that the students have to pass in order to get college credit. The dual enrollment program is also 100 percent free up to this point, another major bonus. I don't know how I feel about paying students to take on higher level courses. I know the idea is that if you can provide an incentive at first, the students will realize the inherent reward of taking on more rigorous challenges academically for personal growth and to benefit their future.
I agree with Jeanne's comments that it diminishes the power and potential of online learning and it smells of desperation to increase enrollment numbers in the pilot program. You always have agendas to think about I guess.
I think pride and a sense of personal accomplishment are far more powerful forms of payment, but getting students to realize this, particularly at a time when many families are struggling with financial woes, is a difficult task. Still, I think it's doable.