Reach program good for U.S., not for SHS

September 5, 2008 — by Robin Liu

Payment for academic success is nothing new. Countless students receive scholarships every year for their outstanding performance, and many Saratoga High students are rewarded with extra spending money for good grades. It would only be reasonable to extend these practices for students at traditionally low-scoring high schools to be rewarded with cash prizes for passing the Advanced Placement exams.

Rewarding Achievement, or REACH, is such a program launched by the Council of Urban Professionals (CUP). CUP is a nonprofit organization advocating for the social, political and economic interests of urban professionals, with a special emphasis on innovative education reform. REACH was designed to motivate students to study for and take AP tests. So far, it’s working.
According to the New York Times, in October 2007, the school officials of 31 low-income New York City high schools decided to reward students for taking AP exams. All students who passed an AP test would be paid by the REACH program. A score of “3” would get $500, a score of “4” would get $750, and a top score of “5” would be awarded with $1,000. For the students, the reward means money for their family, an opportunity to go to college and a chance to get that dream job.

Although the program is costly, it has inspired students in low-income brackets to work harder. Cash awards are always appealing, and they can motivate kids to perform at their true potential. Although it may seem like bribery, rewarding students for their performance gives them a greater sense of responsibility and a further understanding of the seriousness of the task. However, high performing schools like Saratoga High would not benefit from the program because a large percentage of students already have other incentives to study, such as getting into their dream college.

A study conducted by the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute also used a monetary award to motivate students. Students and teachers in disadvantaged public schools in Texas were offered up to $500 for each passing AP test score. The result was a rise in AP participation and scores.

Just as an allowance encourages children to do chores, an incentive can make a student study hard for a test. For students who sincerely need the money, the reward can make a difference in their lives and may help them reach their goals.