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Money No Longer a Motivator for CPS Students

A controversial program that paid over $2 million to students for good grades has been quietly scrapped due to lack of funding, said Michael Scott, president of the Chicago Board of Education.

“The goal was to add additional donors as the Green for Grade$ program progressed over the years,” said Scott. “Unfortunately, due to the recent state of the city’s budget, we were unable to keep a lot of donors on board to implement this program for the 2009-2010 school year.”

The Green for Grade$ program was created by the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University, also known as EdLabs. The program was implemented to develop student interest in school and a commitment to reaching academic goals in the first two years of high school when students are more likely to drop out, Scott said.

Parents and administrators interviewed for this story said they were unaware of the reason behind the program’s cancellation.

“In the face of budget shortfalls, we must absolutely direct funds to the highest priority areas and could not justify having to raise an additional $2 million to fund this for another year,” said Ana Vargas, spokeswoman for Chicago Public Schools.

“The first year of high school is extremely critical for developing academic skills,” said Latunja Williams, principal of Bronzeville Scholastic Institute, one of the schools selected for the Green for Grade$ program. “I believe the Green for Grade$ program truly motivated students and helped prepare them for their second years in high school.”

The Harvard-designed program measured students every five weeks in the areas of English, math, science, physical education and social studies. Students could earn $50 for “A’s,” $35 for “B’s” and $20 for “C’s.” While some students were thrilled to receive an allowance for good grades, several parents were extremely disturbed by the nature of this program.

“We have to keep in mind that our children do not just learn what we teach. Students learn what is implied by our words and actions,” said Trenton Oliver, parent of a child attending the high school.

“We are giving the wrong message with this program. Extrinsic rewards like this are damaging to a student’s work ethic when we consider their long term lives,” Oliver said.

Angelena Young, a sophomore at Manley Career Academy on Chicago’s West Side, is not happy that the Green for Grade$ initiative will not happen this year. She said she received a $200 check for her good grades last year and won’t receive the remainder until she graduates.

“That program really kept me motivated,” said Young. “I don’t have much to look forward to this year.”

With CPS still facing budget cuts and funding issues, many people, including Young, are wondering if they’ll ever see that money.

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