Sunday, April 4, 2010

'Cash Rewards for Students', printed in The Atlantic Free Press, The Netherlands

Should US school districts provide cash rewards for high grades and test scores?
Written by Peter Stern

Wednesday, 31 March 2010 05:35

by Peter Stern

“I never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

- Mark Twain

Cash rewards for students are another poor option determined by business people and legislators who do not seem to have a clear perception of how to fix an ailing public education system. This idea rates right up there with Teacher Merit Incentives and success based on getting children to pass State exams.

Unfortunately, none of these monetary "miracle" options will save public education.

We already have a myopic society whose foundation is built on the almighty dollar. Money is everything in today's world and it is the corrupter in most areas of our lives, e.g., big money prevents our Congress from doing what is best for the majority of Americans.

Must we also teach our children that education means nothing without monetary compensation? Whatever happened to learning for learning's sake?

We are quickly becoming a nation of extremists. Is there no other way of teaching students without dangling the $$$ carrot above their heads?

Remember when an honest day's work brought an honest day's pay and an equally honest feeling of worth?

There is a lack of respect in our contemporary society that is a contagion without regard to race, color or economic class. If anything, we should teach children respect. Respect for each other and respect for learning.

Cash rewards for children and teachers underscores the message that learning itself is NOT important, that it is the cash outcomes that overshadow the learning process. It is dead wrong to teach that to students and teachers and it is wrong to practice those philosophies within our public education system.

Teaching is NOT an industrial assembly line position in which the more pieces you finish, the more you earn. The whole honorable point of becoming a teacher is that you want to plant a positive educational foundation and a love for learning into each student you teach and then to increase each child’s knowledge in ongoing increments so he or she may move toward a successful future with a positive work ethic.

Furthermore, if the state would provide professional teachers with a professional salary, there would be no need to complement the salary with incentives for additional teacher income.

Follow that up with a more intelligent and productive methodology for improving learning outcomes than the current “pass-the-state-exam” mentality.

Another priority for successful teaching and improving learning outcome must be smaller teacher to student classroom ratios.

Students must be taught that learning is a noble effort and they must know how and where to research any topic successfully, while learning the basics of reading, writing, mathematics along with general history and science.

It would be more important for teachers to learn fun ways of catalyzing learning within each student, so that learning itself is the justified reward.

So, if we want to help our children become successful in education, business and life we must provide several basics:

* Encourage children to love learning about all topics Teach more of the basics --- reading, writing, mathematics
* Develop communication, business and life training skills Reduce class sizes to promote real learning
* While it's nice to provide more electives as options, they are not needed to improve learning skills
* Make classes more interesting by using various methods of learning, e.g., visuals, audio, kinesthetic applications
* Eliminate state exams or don't make them the major measure of success
* Reduce competition among children while promoting group inclusion and real joint learning
* Evaluate children in a more holistic manner that includes long-term teacher assessment, tests, various learning skills, overall learning outcomes
* Trim the cost of providing public education so that it is more affordable to taxpayers.

In conclusion, it is unfortunate that on the learning evolutionary timeline public educations has remained in the Dark Ages. At times it seems that our leaders want public education to remain there.

It is time we reach the Age of Educational Enlightenment by promoting an ongoing love of learning, strengthening the basic core of learning (reading, writing, mathematics), reducing over-sized classes by half and providing creative/fun curriculum and teaching methods that will improve overall educational skills and learning outcomes of all children.

Peter Stern, a former director of information services, university professor and public school administrator, is a disabled Vietnam veteran who lives in Driftwood., TX.

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