Friday, April 25, 2008

Perverse Incentives

It has been said that students are the only consumers that often want to get as little as possible for their money. Unfortunately, some educators are willing to give it to them.

As an example, the Grand Prairie Independent School District is requesting permission to give eight days off from school to those middle and high school students who pass the TAKS test. Some other school systems have already incorporated similar incentives, as is permitted under state law.

While the system maintains that this is necessary for them to be able to help failing students to pass, the unintended message of this proposal is clear: if a student is bright enough, we promise to teach him less.

Meanwhile, another educator quoted in the article, Dr. Larry McHaney, associate superintendent of the Duncanville ISD, has it exactly right:

"There is a philosophical problem when we say that passing TAKS is the minimum standard and yet we deprive students who have met that minimum standard from extending their learning by cutting their school year short by up to 10 days," said Dr. Larry McHaney, an associate superintendent in Duncanville. "Our goal is for all students to reach their maximum potential, not just meet the minimum standard."

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