Sunday, November 28, 2010

What is an A worth?

As the first half of the school year winds down, I have a some students that are anxious to bring their grade up in my class. They have come to me asking for extra credit assignments to comp,eye over the weekend. When I asked them why the have this sudden urge to bring their B up to an A, all of them (8 students) said their parents promised some type of monetary reward. 

Growing up, I had friends that were rewarded for good grades. Some received $20 per A. When I asked my parents about this sweet deal, they laughed and said getting good grades is an expectation. They do not pay me to do something I'm expected to do. 

At the time, I was annoyed by their answer. I worked hard in school and thought I should be rewarded for that hard work. In sitcom like writing, my reward was a solid work ethic that payed off in college and in my career. Some of my friends that were paid for their graded had a hard time finding motivation once the cash flowed stopped. 

Education needs to be a priority for students. Students should want to learn because it important. Giving money to children for good grades is sending the wrong message. Cash incentives will only get kids to work hard enough. They will not learn, they try to get A's. 

Fight the urge to reward students with money. If a child is doing well, reward them with more responsibility. Reward them with the positive attention it deserves. When I create an awesome lesson for school, I do not get cash. I get a "job well done" from the boss. The results of hard work are the best reward. That is what kids need to learn. 


  1. Must be nice to get a "job well done" from the boss.

    The irony is that my state (Indiana) is considering paying teachers based on student standardized tests performance!

  2. I am sure that your knowing that you did a job well done is more important to you than hearing it from the boss. That is what we want our students to strive for. But how? I have been wondering this for a while. Do you think that attitude developed from your parents' unwillingness to bribe you for A's? What if the parents who wanted to give out money paid $20 for their kids to teach them everything important that they learned that marking period? Is that any different?
    I really like the idea of giving the students more responsibility. It is a great way of showing that the learning is important and is a significant path to adulthood. As a teacher, I wonder what the equivalent is in the classroom.

  3. Nick - sounds like your students are like mine - what can I do to bring my B up to an A after being satisfied with doing B level work all quarter. Ironically (I teach middle school) I even hear from their parents, asking what their child can do to bring their grade up. As if the label is more important than the content.

    Don't get me started...

  4. Nick, this is why I chose to de-emphasize grades in my classroom. I have to still do trimester report cards but other than that, there are no letter grades in my room. Instead I spend a lot of time talking to the kids about their skills and knowledge and how secure all of it is. I have never felt better about the way I am teaching the kids. Now they are more aware that it is about the learning not the grade, and these are 4th graders! I think you are asking the right question.

  5. So nice to hear a teacher's point of view on this subject. As a parent I've struggled with the concept and I admit I have come close to offering money.

  6. Loved this post. Reminds me of when I coached girls' basketball. We were up big enough in the 3rd quarter of a game that my starters were sitting. One of the starters, in the 4th quarter tried to walk past me and enter herself back into the game. Well, that didn't fly with me and she later explained that she needed to get back in because she needed two points to get double figures and if she did this her parents would give her $20. Let's just say she sat the rest of the game.

  7. This is so true! I wonder if some of this is lost on students because they can't really figure out our system of grading. I mean...what does an A really mean? It is hard to care about getting an A when what I do in one class to earn an A isn't the same as the expectations in another class. We ask kids to work hard in order to get good grades. Why not ask kids to work hard because there is value in hard work? There is meaning in hard work?
    PS a kid in my school got $100/A Imagine my disappointment when my parents offered the same response as yours. Wonder where that kid is now?

  8. I get this all the time too. Even my own son asks me, "Do I get anything for getting all A's?"

    I lift up my open hand, and say, "High five!"

    He doesn't see it as funny.

    I do end up giving him some kind of reward, but not monetary. I let him know how proud of him I am. That seems to be enough for my boy.

    Kids need to be shown that doing well in school is something that makes parents happy and proud. Hopefully that is enough for the student.

    Great post.

  9. Too much focus on grades and not enough on the degree to which students acquire skills. Grades are short-term realities that can swamp long-term skill development. Most of the time, grades are championed by parents. Two enlightening sources on this are Carol Dweck's Mindsets book and an article about her from the NYTimes on Feb 11, 2007 (How Not to Talk to Your Kids)

  10. I think this same thought process is what's behind the merit pay idea for teachers. There is no difference. Pay for performance.


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