CPS to offer cash for good grades

September 11, 2008 4:09:43 PM PDT
Scholars in the Chicago Public Schools system could score thousands of dollars for making the grade. The Paper Project program will debut in 20 schools this year. Critics of the program call it bribery, but CEO Arne Duncan backs the plan.

The money for the financial incentives comes from private donors. Students would earn their money freshman and sophomore year- and get paid half of the amount at the end of each grading period. They get the rest after graduation.

    The breakdown of the payouts:
  • A's = $50/ each
  • B's=$35/each
  • C's=$20/each

A straight-A student can earn as much as $4,000 by the end of sophomore year. Students at Uplift Community High School in Uptown are excited about the program.

"I'm gonna try to get a lot of "A's," said one student.

That's exactly what CPS is hoping for- an increase in students who want to make the grade to make the cash, which, in turn, could lead to a higher graduation rate.

"We work really hard and we need to be rewarded somehow," said Christina Okunoren, freshman.

The Paper Project focuses on freshmen because, according to educators, that's a crucial time in a student's academic career.

"All the data shows that if our freshmen get off to a great start, we can be very hopeful about their future," said CEO Arne Duncan, CPS.

The program was created by researchers at Harvard University who are also studying similar projects in New York City and Washington DC.

"I grew up in the streets. And if we don't think our kids face incentives to do all the things we don't want them to do, we have our heads in the sand," said Dr. Roland Fryer, Harvard University.

Critics of the program believe the program is bribery that will leave kids bankrupt in the long run.

"What our kids really need is a high quality education, and it's pretty clear that the system is giving up on giving it to them," said Julie Woestehoff, Parents United for Responsible Education.

Some parents said they support whatever program gets students to study.

"I think it's a fantastic idea because many people need the money to help them live," said Bill Sykes, parent. "Good idea."

"I don't necessarily agree with it. I made mine do it without money. But if that's what's going to help these kids finish school, then I'm for it," said another parent.


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