June 20, 2007 (GBN News): The rollout of New York City’s new educational cash incentive plan was marred by several incidents yesterday. The plan, designed to motivate children and parents through cash rewards, pays specific dollar amounts for taking and passing tests, obtaining library cards, and other educationally beneficial behaviors. However, the first day was not without its glitches.
At MS 322 in Brooklyn, a sixth grade class took matters into their own hands and demanded to be tested in order to earn reward money. According to several witnesses, the class began chanting, “We want a test” so loudly that it could be heard all over the school. Other classes then took up the cry, and the Principal was forced to direct the entire teaching staff to immediately administer interim exams to all classes. Other schools ran out of cash, unprepared for the high level of motivation shown by their students, and teachers had to reach into their own pockets to provide the rewards to keep order.
By afternoon, so many people were applying for library cards that long lines formed outside many public library branches, and the libraries quickly ran out of new cards. To make matters worse, a number of parents were miffed upon learning that they were not eligible for the $50 reward because they already had library cards. At one library in Queens, in a scene reminiscent of a 1960’s draft protest, dozens of parents stood outside and burned their library cards so they could apply for new ones and earn their $50. Chancellor Joel Klein responded in a statement that these were all “growing pains”, and that he was pleased at the positive overall response to the plan.
Mr. Klein also announced a major change in student report cards for next year. Eschewing the traditional letter grades, the new report cards will simply indicate the dollar amounts earned for each class. “We’re trying to focus children on real-world measures of success," he said, "and what better measure of success than money earned? Look at the Mayor and myself.” And responding to criticism that the new incentive program will lead to more disparity between economically advantaged and disadvantaged students if children who score well are not poor, the Chancellor reassured parents that since benefits will be subject to the income tax, the less advantaged students will keep a greater percentage of their earnings. Furthermore, he said, to simplify tax filing, report cards will be printed straight onto W2 forms.