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Incentives in Schools: Who are they helping?

A recent piece featured on NPR draws public attention to new research looking at the impact of incentive programs on kids’ school attendance rates. The paper, released by economists at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, looked at the attempt to motivate kids to show up more.
After a short burst of increased attendance rates for two out of three groups of students (the students who earned the reward), both those groups who for a period of time increased rates of attendance returned to attendance rates similar to where they were prior to the study. The one group who showed a more durable difference, unfortunately, was influenced in a less than expected direction.
For this one group of children, including 60 percent of the sample of students with the lowest attendance rates (those we’d hope to help the most), students actually arrived less than they had been attending before the incentive scheme was introduced!
Why? Authors believe this group of children who did not pull attendance rates up enough to earn the incentive likely came to feel less confident about their scholastic abilities after the experiment, decreasing the motivation they once had.
So, how do we support kids who struggle to make it to school? We here at Think:Kids believe helping kids be more successful at showing up means working with kids to identify and address the kinds of problems that get in their way. Kids who feel confident and more able to take on challenging situations which face them can experience a sense of hope, rather than despair and come prepared with a sense of promise and purpose for their future.
Check out Nurith Aizenman’s full piece here: https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/05/22/407947554/how-do-you-motivate-kids-to-stop-skipping-school
Do you have a child who struggles to make it in to school? Let us know your thoughts about ways kids can be better supported and how to foster feelings of competence in the classroom.