Rewards and habits

Posted on May 25, 2015


This article is about a school that gave rewards for attendance.   It worked for a lot of kids for the 38 days that it ran.  Unlike how things usually go around here, the school folks didn’t just get their publicity folks out to announce and applaud the improvement; they looked at what happened after the rewards were given. Pretty much everybody who’d improved attendance to get the prize went back to their “baseline” level … except for the people who hadn’t earned the prizes. ” Kids whose attendance rate was lowest to start off with and who did not improve enough to qualify for the reward. In other words, they failed the challenge. More than 60 percent of the lowest attenders fell into this category. For them, the aftermath was grim. They were now only about one-fourth as likely to show up for class as they had been before the reward scheme was introduced.”

So, not only were habits not changed among the people who responded to the reward, but a whole group of students pretty much decided school wasn’t for them.

What are the other cultural forces?   The article talks about kids (9 years old) staying home if a sibling was staying home, if it was a festival day, if they weren’t in the mood… I wonder if this was true for that lowest attending group or if there were other reasons as well.   And… had they thought about the “different kiddos get a different message” thing before they saw this?   That those things you say for the Whole Class that work for most of them can make the ones it’s not working for feel even more isolated, especially if everybody’s all excited about this Really Cool THing They’re Doing.   If it’s the latest thing, you’d better just shut up and either try to make it work for you … or realize that it just isn’t going to work for you.   Since you usually stay quiet or disappear (especially if people call you a whiner or a hater, which they often do — much easier than addressing the problems!)  then people can go on touting their Amazing New Thing.

This was 38 days and pencils and a cute eraser… I hope the bigger lesson was learned. (The fact that they *did* look at the ones who didn’t qualify for the reward says they already know more than lots of folks in this country…)

Posted in: Uncategorized