Cincinnati High School Starts Paying Kids to Attend School: Are Incentives Good For Education?


Dohn Community High School in Cincinnati, Ohio has started paying its students this week in an effort to increase attendance and graduation rates. This has opened up quite a bit of debate about whether or not we should pay kids to go to school when they should be doing this anyway. Incentives definitely work and incentivizing attendance and behavior at school could be a good idea for both this school and education as a whole.  

The program rewards students who show up to school on time every day with good behavior. Seniors will receive a $25 Visa Gift Card and underclassmen will receive a $10 Visa Gift Card. In addition, $5 will be put into a savings account set up by the school for the students who earn the gift cards, which will be paid out after graduation. The program is estimated to cost about $40,000 this year. The school’s principal, Ramone Davenport, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that while there are many critics to this program, he believes it is worth it if graduation rates and academic performance improve as a result of the incentives.

Dohn had a graduation rate of about 14% last year. The school met zero of the 12 state education indicators. Its attendance rate, 84.2%, was well below the Ohio state average of 94.5%. Clearly, Dohn is not getting the job done. Whatever school officials were doing was not helping kids attend school and graduate. If this incentive gets kids in the classroom and helps them graduate, then I don’t see a problem with it. 

In fact, I think incentives are something we should look to more in education. There should be more of a reason for kids to want to go to school and want to learn than just the fact that it is required of them. Now maybe we should be doing something to get them to succeed in school instead of just paying them to attend. But I think the folks at Dohn High School are on to something here.

We have the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which sets education requirements for states to meet to prepare their kids for college and for future careers. Critics say it is a flawed education program since it sets the bar too low, produces more teaching to the standardized tests as opposed to the curriculum, and labels schools as failures too easily. No Child Left Behind incentivizes the states and the schools to do well, but what about incentivizing the students?

That’s where the problem is. The students are the ones not meeting the standards. We can go on all day talking about our lacking education system, but in the end it is the students taking these tests that are not performing. It’s the students who are not going to class and not doing well enough to graduate. Sure, there are other factors that go into it, but the problem is with the kids, and one way to get kids to school to learn is to give them something in return.

Recently, President Barack Obama waived 10 states from meeting the 2014 NCLB requirements in return for their more flexible plans that Obama says have “greater freedom” and “greater accountability.”  His blueprint focuses more on teachers and students, and less on state standards and standardized testing. Obama wants the same thing that Principal Davenport from Dohn wants for his kids: more attendance, more graduates, and more educated kids. Davenport’s idea of paying kids for perfect attendance may be extreme but if it works, then it is more than worth it.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons