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8.26.2008

michelle rhee's risky d.c. school fix

This is a really interesting Newsweek profile on Michelle A. Rhee, who took over as head of the Washington, D.C. public schools a year ago. Her mission: to save D.C.'s crumbling schools. Since she took on the job, her unconventional approach has attracted quite a bit attention... and controversy: An Unlikely Gambler.

Last week, Rhee announced plans to boost dismal achievement at half the city's middle schools by offering students cash as a motivator. That's right. Cash money. Instead of detention, suspension and all that to turn around poorly behaved, underachieving middle school students, they plan to pay students up to $100 per month for displaying good behavior. I'm not kidding. This is a real, actual program: D.C. Tries Cash as a Motivator In School.

Beginning in October, 3,000 students at 14 middle schools will be eligible to earn up to 50 points per month and be paid $2 per point for attending class regularly and on time, turning in homework, displaying manners and earning high marks. A maximum of $2.7 million has been set aside for the program, and the money students earn will be deposited every two weeks into bank accounts the system plans to open for them.

Dude. Where was this program when I was in middle school? Granted, my school probably never got this bad. But I wish someone had paid me a hundred bucks a month for grades and behavior back in junior high. I don't know where Rhee dreamed up this crazy program, but if it works, it's going to be huge. More here: New chief seeks DC schools fix where others failed.