Getting Paid for Good Grades?

May 5, 2008
By Yanran Lu, Rohnert Park, CA

You’ve all seen those kids. The ones who rip open their report cards at the end of the trimester and scream “YES! 100 bucks for me!” It happened when I was in elementary school, and it seems like that the phenomenon is growing. More and more parents are paying their kids for A’s and B’s --- with an effect that is definitely noticeable. However, this brings ethical parents everywhere to a dilemma: Is this the right thing to do?

Unfortunately, my parents have never been the type to pay me for my grades – even though I’ve pretty much always pulled a 4.0 GPA. Unlike other parents who shell out 20 or even 100 dollars for every A, I’ve instead been awarded with “Good job.” Of course, I believe that it would be a great boon to my wallet if my parents started “bribing” me to get good grades (the mall would be getting some more business.)

Financial incentives do work, at least to certain extent. If hypothetically I was a C student and my parents gave me money for A’s and B’s, I’m sure that I would begin to work harder at school. The method of paying for grades has definitely proven itself many times. Adults get pay raises, bonus and promotions if they do a good job. Why should it be any different for kids?

Many schools and other institutions are also experimenting with similar concepts. For example, ExxonMobil funded a $125 million dollar initiative that would pay students in seven states from Arkansas to Washington $100 for each passing grade on selected Advanced Placement (AP) exams. The ExxonMobil program is modeled after an earlier Texas program that led to an 8% rise in college-going students and a 30% rise in the number of students with high SAT or ACT test scores according to a study by Cornell economist Kirabo Jackson.

Students who don’t get a kick out of getting A’s itself are obviously enjoying full pockets due to these incentives, as shown by one student who said, “If I had children, I would consider paying for grades because it did help me. High academic performance was expected of me, and the money was just another form of positive reinforcement.”

On the other hand, some people, including some parenting experts, argue that kids should be satisfied with the warm fuzzy feelings of accomplishment. Success is its own reward, they said, deciding that a child’s internal drive to succeed is far more important in long run than money. While a cash incentive may give a short-term boost, its long-term effect is mixed at best.

As a kid who has had to get by merely on warm fuzzy feelings, I have to admit that sometimes I do detest those children bragging about the new XBOX they’re going to buy with prize money. While we’re working for nothing, they’re basically working a job! They do such and such work and get such and such pay. Parents on this side of the argument may liken the child’s duty to go to school to the mother’s role inside the family. As one mother put it, “It’s not something I expect to get paid for. It’s what I do as part of the family.” Why should kids be paid to do things that they are supposed to (and are mandated by law to) do?

Also, there are side effects of this system. If a child is consistently paid for good grades, who is going to stop him from upping the ante from $5 to $20? When kids become more self-sufficient and can earn their own money, are paltry bits of cash going to be enough to keep them on the Honor Roll? Once they can earn their own 8-dollars-an-hour, parents will probably lose their leverage. While ten dollars may seem like a lot to a second grader, don’t be surprised if your 16-year-old asks for a car if you want straight-As.

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This article has 1 comment.

$_$MONEYMAN said...
on Apr. 23 2013 at 12:51 pm
I think that too

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