Teacher Talk

Teachertalk 315 004

Paying for Grades: Does It Work?

Q. We now pay our smart middle-schoolers $10 for every A and $5 for every B. They used to get mostly B’s, now they usually get straight A’s. Is there anything wrong with this? – Paying for Grades

A. There are pros and cons on the issue of paying for grades; however, in your household it is working and everyone is getting the results that they are looking for, so it is a win-win situation.

If children buy into getting better grades because they want a reward (money, TV time or a cell phone), one positive outcome is increasing their skill in one or more subjects. This can lead to a feeling of accomplishment and can create a genuine desire to do well in school and an appreciation of learning.

Rewarding children for grades can backfire if children already have a desire to learn. They may begin to think that they are working harder primarily to get a reward rather than to do well in school. However, if children have little or no desire to succeed in school, rewards may get them on the path to doing well in school.

One caution: If parents expect rewards to improve grades, they must offer rewards for grades that the children can reasonably be expected to achieve. A child with good basic math skills could be offered rewards for A and B grades. However, the child with weak math skills should not be expected to get more than C or possibly B grades.

Skipping From Kindergarten to First Grade

Q. What do you think about accelerating my daughter, who is in kindergarten, to first grade, as she’s doing work well past what is expected of her in kindergarten? The only negative, as I see it, is she’s physically smaller than average. The school suggested moving her. – Move or Not?

A. You are not the first parent to face this decision. It’s best to make this decision with the help of school personnel and even psychologists. Plus, it’s very smart to learn as much as you can about acceleration. Two really good websites with solid information are the National Association of Gifted Children (www.nagc.org) and the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration (www.accelerationinstitute.org).

You need to realize that skipping a grade is not the only form of acceleration offered by schools, especially for older children. Another popular alternative is advancing a child for a single subject.

What works for one child may not work for others. In general, skipping a grade should create a better match between children and the level of instruction they are receiving. Compared to peers who have not been accelerated, those who do skip grades or levels are usually more advanced academically and often have improved socialization skills. On the other hand, not all gifted children should be advanced, especially those who are not socially and emotionally ready or academically advanced across subjects.

It is good that you are being proactive. As a parent, you need to look out for your child because educators don’t always focus on the needs of the gifted. Also, students who are accelerated do have the advantage of getting through school faster and are able to obtain more advanced degrees.

Raising Funds for Schools

Q. I’m the chair of our school’s spring fundraiser. It is usually a silent auction that raises about $5,000. With the sad state of the economy, I think that this could be harder to do. Would you continue with the auction or try something else? – Money Needed

A. Since the auction has become a tradition, it makes sense to continue it unless you are hearing a lot of protests against this type of fundraiser. It would be a good idea to make sure that there are auction items at a variety of price levels. It’s also very important to solicit items that people will truly want to own. Families who don’t feel that they can bid can contribute to the auction by soliciting items or helping run it. They can even offer special meals or services. The more participation you have by school families, the better the chance of success.

You should make it very clear in auction flyers what the money will be used for. State that it will be for extra materials for teachers, the music program, field trips, science equipment and so on. Then you might describe how auction funds have been used in the past and what they accomplished.

You may be able to increase attendance at the auction by inviting all family members to attend. Having many items for children could increase family interest. Also consider having the auction during a weekend afternoon so families won’t need to hire baby sitters. You can even gain additional revenue from selling refreshments, some of which can be donated. And some schools gain additional money by charging an admission fee.

If there is a widespread objection to the silent auction, consider a different option. Some possibilities are a carnival, a play or musical, a book sale or a big garage sale. You can use a search engine online to find many more ideas.