Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Feeling Yucky About Rewarding Test Scores
It's the time of year that makes me cringe just a little.
It's that time when state-testing classroom rewards are doled out. The promises of going to the movies, being a part of a school party, riding in a limo, being teacher for the day, etc. are now handed out to students who meet the criteria set forth by teachers and schools where the pressure is huge.
This article, from The Palm Beach Post, shares the story of one school where all of the fourth grade students WHO SCORED A 4 OR ABOVE (this year's passing score), enjoyed the reward of walking to a local pizza restaurant and enjoying lunch. I have to assume this means those who did not pass, did not get to do this.
I'm sure all of these students (who passed) had a great time and I would never begrudge any student the benefit of a reward based on hard work, however I argue that this type of reward actually becomes public humiliation for others. Using food as a reward is a whole other issue in itself that I won't even get into here.
When I researched this particular school that was named in the article, I see that 81% of the students achieved the passing grade. I don't know how many students are in the grade level there (let's say 100, which is probably high), but I will guess that approximately 20 students did not pass the test and so they sat together in the cafeteria, eating their regular lunch, while their peers were off on their FCAT Writes field trip. I can only imagine how those students felt. I can guess that some of those students' parents may have even kept them home to avoid them having to deal with the embarrassment. It was only this school that was mentioned in this article, but keep in mind that most of our schools engage in these types of events in some form or another.
Is there a difference between this and posting a list student names who passed and who did not on the cafeteria wall?
Will the students who enjoyed the pizza today, really remember later on why they were eating pizza? I bet they will not. Will the students who were left behind remember? I bet they will.
I would love to see some hard evidence that these types of rewards are truly connected. I will venture to guess that those students who scored well did so because their teachers motivated them, practiced with them, made writing interesting and relevant and their parents reinforced their daily skills; not because they were striving for a pizza party.
Is there evidence that a student who struggles with writing all year, will suddenly make gains if promised a pizza party at the end?
I'm all for rewards, but this just feels yucky to me.