Proficiency Has Its Price

Ohio’s Coshocton City Schools has taken performance pay in a whole new direction--offering elementary school students as much as $100 for solid test scores ($15 for each “proficient,” and $20 for each “accelerated” or “advanced” on the state’s five tests). Entire grades of elementary students are selected by lottery each year to participate in the incentive program, funded by the foundation of local businessman Robert E. Smith. The program, now in its third year, is a hit with district students and teachers, and Coshocton has maintained its “Effective” rating (the state's second highest rating) under Ohio's accountability system. Critics, however, contend that paying students to perform will kill their internal motivation for success and love of learning. But Coshocton superintendent Wade Lucas maintains that “if we can make a difference for our kids and give our teachers another motivating tool, then I think it’s a program worth continuing.” A study to be released this summer will help determine the program’s impact and future. If the findings are positive, proficiency (and the increased focus on academics that hopefully comes with it) in Coshocton might just be worth the price.

Calculating the Cost of Paying for Grades,” by Scott Stephens, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 21, 2007.

Ohio District Tests Performance Pay--for Students,” by Debra Viadero, Education Week (registration required), January 17, 2007.