Paying for Attendance

Getting kids to do things they don’t want to do, like going to school, is a hard task for even the best parents and teachers. When it comes to at-risk students, the job becomes even harder. For one school in Cincinnati, the attendance problem has forced administrators to attempt a new incentive program: gift cards for showing up and staying out of trouble.

While the idea is a radical one sure to inspire heated debate, educators at Dohn Community High School believe that radical measures are the only measures left at this point. As a charter school for troubled students, Dohn has had to find unique solutions to low attendance. After trying rewards like pizza parties and out-of-uniform days with little success, educators realized that students were more concerned with money problems at home, reducing their likelihood of attending class. The principal then made a decision: if money was what they needed most, that’s what he would give them.

The program devised by the teachers rewards students with a $10 Visa gift card ($25 for seniors) at the end of each week, provided they show up on time, do their schoolwork and behave themselves. Students also receive $5 in a savings account for each gift card they receive, which is paid out after graduation. Funded by a private donor and local work resource center, these gift cards have already sparked higher attendance rates in a school that has been classified an “Academic Emergency” by the Ohio Department of Education.

Although not a permanent solution for any school, or even an option for most, I believe the majority of educators would agree that any method, no matter how unorthodox, can show results. Paying students just to come to school is an extreme case, but without good attendance, what teacher can even hope to mold the minds of their young charges?

To read the full story of Dohn Community High School, visit CityBeat or Time Magazine.

What do you think about incentive programs for attendance? Would you pay kids to come to class?

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