Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cell Phones For Grades: Outside The Box Thinking or Hidden Racism?

So, the fine folks of NYC are still at a loss for ways to motivate kids to learn. Last month, I told ya'll about a pilot program that's effectively paying kids for just showing up to school and taking (already required) standardized tests. Now, in another effort to encourage Tyrone to put down that PS3 controller (no small feat, just ask AverageSis) and pick up a book, NYC school administrators are really getting desperate.

What’s the cheapest way to call your friends? For thousands of New York City middle school students, the answer now is to earn an "A". Education officials began doling out cell phones to 2,500 students on Wednesday as part of a closely watched experiment to try to change the way teenagers think about doing well in school.

The pilot program, at three Brooklyn middle schools and four charter schools, is part of an effort by Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to motivate students to perform better academically, and reward them when they do.

Each student is receiving a Samsung flip-phone in a package specially designed with the program’s logo. The phones come loaded with 130 prepaid minutes. Good behavior, attendance, homework and test scores will be rewarded with additional minutes.

While some have criticized Fryer’s incentive programs, saying they undermine the idea of learning simply for the sake of learning, Klein has ardently defended the experiments.
Oh, one minor thing, cell phones are banned on school property.

Thankfully, the money for this pilot program was raised from private donations, so your tax dollars are not being wasted on this kinda idiocy.

You can probably already guess my opinion on this, I think it's pretty darn stupid to keep having to essentially bribe black and brown kids to get them to learn. Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations. Sheesh.

Here's a few noble ideas: How about perhaps reconsidering the curriculum and finding ways to teach that make learning more conducive to the types of kids you're teaching? You could make lessons more hands-on, and incorporate music and physical activities like they do at AverageMentee's school. How about finding ways to lessen the need to spend so much time preparing kids to pass standardized tests? How about keepin' it all the way real and finding ways of penalizing parents who do not show up for parent teacher conferences and do not reinforce what's being taught in school by checking their kids homework and other assignments?

Giving away prepaid cell phones (do you know how quickly a 6th grader can burn through 130 minutes? Please) just looks like another kooky way of avoiding the obvious: if these kids aren't learning, it's probably because there's no emphasis on education at home. If it's not a priority, if a kid doesn't have parents who are involved and engaged in helping them develop a hunger for learning (and I don't just mean by doing well in school), then you're always going to be fighting an uphill battle.

But that's just my severely uneducated opinion. What's yours?

Question: Is the NYC Cell Phones for C's Program a good idea? What sorta ideas would you suggest if you were superintendent?

Get good grades, get a cell phone [NYTimes]

Paying for Grades: Outside The Box Thinking or Hidden Racism? []

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