Specifically, this grant will test a new strategy to engage students and improve their academic achievement through financial incentives. Students will receive an incentive payment after each of ten tests is administered throughout the school year. Fourth graders can receive up to $250, and seventh graders can each receive up to $500, based on their individual performance over the course of a school year. All participating students will receive money for taking each test, with additional dollars awarded for each question a student answers correctly.
This program provides rewards, common to other student groups, to segments of the student population who, if not for this program, would be unlikely to receive them. It also serves as an important lesson that education is the key to future work opportunities. College graduates earn an average of 60 percent more than high school graduates.
This project proposes to answer five questions about the effectiveness of student incentives in closing racial achievement gaps:
1. Do monetary incentives improve academic performance?
2. Do monetary incentives for academic performance curb other risky behavior or increase motivation?
3. Do group reward systems improve performance more than individual reward systems?
4. What student demographics gain most from individual and group incentive programs?
5. What are the long-term effects of incentive programs?
June 1, 2007 - Expected launch of program. In anticipation, the test type will be selected and purchased, and the incentive distributive method will be determined and staff will be hired.
The academic achievement gap between minority and non-minority students is staggering and is the civil rights issue of the 21st century. One hypothesis on which this program is based is that the achievement gap persists because students from low-income families are not given the proper incentives to invest in their education, especially compared with students in more affluent areas. This program assumes that all students are innately capable of high achievement, but that incentives further motivate them to perform well. The centerpiece of this student incentives program is to provide short-term incentives to encourage students to do what is in their long-term best interest. This initial project will target fourth and seventh graders in approximately 40 New York City Department of Education public schools. Once principals opt-in for their schools, parents will also be given the opportunity to decide whether or not their children will participate.
The Broad Foundation has made it its mission to address the blatant inequities in our own society, as it is founded on the belief that education is the key to success in life, and is certainly critical to informed and engaged citizenship and a healthy democracy. The achievement gaps among minority and poor students are particularly alarming. The Clinton Global Initiative has inspired the Foundation to look at innovative new ways to address the fundamental problems of poverty and education. This project, spearheaded by an African-American Assistant Professor of Economics at Harvard University, impressed The Broad Foundation with its innovation and the potential it has to make a profound impact on the lives of hundreds of poor and minority students in New York City. If this project is successful, the Foundation expects it to be expanded to other urban school districts around the country.
Seeking: Matching funds. A contingency of this grant is a provision that requires $1,162,293 in matching funds. At the conclusion of this pilot, assuming its success, the Broad Foundation expects that other foundations, non-profit organizations, or individuals will want to expand the program to other cities and school districts across the country.