Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gimme More (fake) Money!

The Principal, and the team leaders, came up with an idea to hopefully motivate our kids to try to do their on The Very Big Deal Government Mandated Tests. Sad to say, but most of our students could give a rip about grades, testing, their future, or anything remotely important, so we have to come up with ideas to motivate them because apparently hard work, doing well, and all that cool intrinsic stuff doesn't cut it with these knuckleheads.

We were moaning about it at a team leader meeting and I made the comment that these kids don't get the idea of getting paid to do a job. They're so used to the entitlements - the free and reduced lunch, the free school supplies, getting a jacket from the guidance closet if they don't have one, and so forth and so on that they don't get the idea of work. My corporate background reared its ugly head and I said that our team was thinking of actually paying kids for their work next year - we were sick and tired of getting after the kids who do nothing (which is a huge waste of energy as they don't care and it makes us cranky), and were more inclined to reward them with Bluebird Bucks or something equally stupid that could be redeemed for things like pencils, erasers, paper, and once a month, a bunch of goodies like pizza, hot dogs, cookies, and that silly trinket sort of stuff that these kids love.

And so we thought, hey, let's have them earn money for doing good test taking strategies and have an afternoon party where they could spend it and run off some steam.

The kids can earn up to four bucks each day of testing - for being on time, for being prepared, for using good testing skills (highlighting, underlining, crossing out bad answers, etc.) and for taking their time and rechecking their work. If they are at school all four days and take all four tests on time (no being tardy to school this week!), they get a bracelet that gets them into the party and they'll have $16 worth of bucks to spend. The party does have free things - a movie, a dance, and inflatables, plus they can spend the money on food, video games, and drop them in the box for drawings for things like gift cards and homework passes. Each day at the end of that day's test we hand out their bucks, they write their names on them, put them in their zip lock "party pack", and then we lock them up (they love watching you unlock and lock these as if they were real money.)

It has actually worked.

I have never, in six years of giving The Very Big Deal Government Mandated Tests, had kids take their time like this group is doing. And keep in mind, this is a group that during the year will blast through a 30 question test in ten minutes and then wonder why they failed. They are highlighting, they are crossing out things, and amazingly, they are checking their work. I've asked each day how many of them have found a mistake and at least half the class raises their hands. They couldn't wait to tell us about how they double checked everything and found - gasp! - mistakes. It's absolutely amazing to watch this.

Good gracious, we may be on to something.


ChiTown Girl said...

OMG!!! This is such an awesome idea! I hope it goes completely as planned :)

Maria Horchata said...

This is fantastic! Our school is doing a raffle incentive program to get kids to show up next week for our testing (we're an independent study charter school, so we don't exactly have a captive audience.) We'd talked about ways to get kids to earn tickets for actually working on the test, and I REALLY like the idea of looking for evidence of using test-taking strategies. I forwarded this link to my assistant principal--thanks so much for the idea!! :-)

Good luck with it, and I look forward to you reporting back after the testing is over about how it went, and also I'm looking forward to finding out if it makes a difference in your test scores!

R2P2 said...

That sounds awesome! Congrats on the early success, and I wish you luck everything goes exactly as you hope!

nbosch said...

Do what it takes.

Debbie said...

The grade schools and middle schools in our district all seem to have some form of "bucks" that they give to students for doing the right thing. After a while, the students expect to get paid for things. As a sub, I got tired of students asking for payment for what they should be doing all along. I think it becomes counter-productive. By the time they get to high school, they expect to get something for doing what they should be doing. One student told me that she didn't care about doing her work, "I'd do it if I got paid." She meant literally - not with school bucks.