Wednesday, September 26, 2007

So what do STUDENTS think about Cash for Kids?

It's been months since the Bloomberg-Klein Complex introduced Opportunity NYC, a program that would pay students for academic achievement, specifically: standardized test scores. This story has been covered by all the major media outlets, the vast sea of NYC edublogs and even the Colbert Report. Still, no one has asked: "What do real life students think about 'Cash for Kids'?" At Monday's NYC Student Union meeting, students voted unanimously in disapproval of the program. Here are some student opinions from the press release:
"It insults hard-working, low- income students by conveying the message that they could not possibly value education in itself and must need some sort of incentive in order to perform better in school." -- Laura Johnson, 17

"A student that tries to earn the money but barely misses the cut off score to earn the money will only become frustrated and give up." -- Hasanur Rahman, 16

"[Opportunity NYC] propagates the test prep culture and detracts from other important aspects of education." -- Shauna Fitzgerald, 15

"The cash being used in this program could better be used to solve citywide problems affecting all students like class size and school resources." -- Ben Shanahan, 15
I tend to trust the opinion of my peers and was one of the students who eventually voted for the resolution disapproving of the program. Still, I personally believe there might be some benefits to the program:
  • As my friend and fellow Student Union member Ashu Kapoor said: “It's nice to know that the city is coming up with new and creative ways to help New York City public school students.”
  • A lot of students just don't care about school and this might encourage them to get involved in school. (However, as other students at the meeting noted, that involvement would be temporary and wouldn't bring the longterm results that we need.)
  • It just might work.
Unfortunately, "it just might work" is not a good enough rationale for a program on this grand a scale. The DOE needs to come up with incentives for students to get into their education but this program has too many holes in it. Maybe instead of Cash for Kids, the DOE could add money to a college fund to be managed by the city and given to these students once their high achievements have made the dream of a college education more realizable. That would turn this short-term program into one capable of longterm successes.

Check out two great posts on the issue by NYC Student Union members Ben Shanahan and Hasanur Rahman.

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