Paying for Performance

The field of education is littered with reforms designed to increase student performance – everything from the "new math," to more teachers to better pay.  Yet the most obvious reform of all has hardly been tried – pay the students to learn.  That’s the simple idea of an impressive young economist, Roland Fryer (earlier I posted on Fryer’s controversial work with Steven Levitt on the causes and consequences of distinctively black names).

Fryer was here on Monday and he told me of a large scale experiment he is running in 24 of the poorest performing New York schools.  Every three weeks students are tested and if they improve they are paid on the order of $20.  Control groups are also tested.  Early results are very encouraging.  No other reform has anywhere near the bang for the buck as paying the students.

As Fryer said to me, ‘for years white parents have been giving their kids money for As, now we are trying the same system for black kids.’   


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