Let’s Pay Students to Learn: Good Incentives and Online Tutoring Programs Have the Potential to Transform K-12 Education
The numbers reported by the Nation’s Report Card of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show that approximately two-thirds of American public school students achieve below grade level in reading and mathematics. This is old news, and yet reform efforts over three decades have yielded insignificant improvements. Why? And what can be done?
The needed resources and technologies are here. The U.S. is near the top of the list in per student spending on public schools and is well known for its advanced technologies. Little used educational technologies could transform our schools from their deplorable status into successful institutions that would bring the vast majority of American children to grade-level performance. Among the technologies available, two in particular, used wisely, show substantial effects: incentives and automated tutoring.
What “carrots and sticks” should be employed to motivate children to fully participate in learning? Though negative feedback in the form of sanctions and punishments such as detention is sometimes appropriate to correct a student’s behavior, “carrots” are usually most appropriate.
What are the ways they can work?
Left alone, for example, most children are curious, which can provide a strong incentive to learn on their own and in school. Children also tend to be competitive and often love games, sports, and other challenges that provide opportunities to win and intermediate incentives along the way to the end. Their near obsession with electronic computer games provides a revealing example.