Ohio high school paying kids to show up, do work

CLEVELAND Tue Feb 14, 2012 6:10pm EST

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CLEVELAND (Reuters) - An urban charter high school in Cincinnati, Ohio plans to pay students to show up, behave and do their course work -- basics for most students -- to increase the chances they will stay in school and graduate.

The Dohn Community High School plans to pay seniors $25 per week and underclassman $10 week under the program that starts this week at the school where a large percentage of the students live in poverty and single-parent households.

"The target is graduation," Kenneth Furrier, the school's chief administrative officer, said in an interview. "We do almost everything we can to get the kids to there."

Furrier said the school will not use any operating funds for the program. It has raised $40,000 from charitable programs and two private donors and is looking for more, he said.

The payments may not sound like much, but administrators think they will provide good incentives.

About 90 percent of Dohn students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, a figure used to gauge poverty, and fewer than 20 percent are in two-adult households, Furrier said. Some students are the only ones in the home working, he said.

"We tell our kids that they should treat school like it's their job and then they say they don't get paid," Furrier said in an interview. "Now they can get paid."

Programs that pay students date to the 1990s including some large urban school systems in New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Texas. Dohn's program was inspired by one in Tucson, Arizona that focuses on similar incentives.

In a 2010 Harvard study, researcher Ronald Fryer found that programs that pay students for things like attendance, good behavior, wearing uniforms, and completing homework assignments increased reading achievement. Incentives for test scores had no measureable effect on achievement, he found.

Fryer's research also found that students did not need to understand the longer term goals to benefit from the programs that provide rewards for attention to tasks in the short term.

Furrier said rewarding students for meeting short-term goals would work best with the Dohn students.

"We know that paying out every month wouldn't even work. A month is too far down the line," Furrier said.

(Editing by David Bailey and Greg McCune)

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