Senator suggests pay-to-learn

DETROIT - The idea of paying students to perform well in school is getting mixed reviews in Detroit, as the state senator who proposed it says it could motivate students to learn while others say it sends the wrong message, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Sen. Hansen Clarke, D-Detroit, introduced pay-for-performance legislation after learning about programs in Dallas and  Washington, D.C., in which test scores improved slightly after the students were given financial incentives for attendance, behavior or reading books, the Free Press reported.

"I realized what's so lacking with many of our Detroit students is they don't have a reward, even from their parents," Clarke told the Free Press. "They don't see the value of an education."

Clarke said the money would come from private funds, according to the Free Press.

Sharlonda Buckman, executive director of the Detroit Parent Network, said, "That is not the message we want to send to our kids, that you have to get paid to learn."

A recent Harvard University study showed that student academic performance improved when students were paid for specific objectives like attendance or reading books, the Free Press said. Simply paying for better grades or higher test scores did not work as well because the students did not understand how to achieve those goals, the study showed, according to the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "Should we pay kids to excel in school?" May 25, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit test scores worst in nation," Dec. 8, 2009