Finding the right incentives for your students can be a tricky affair. You want to reward those students who have met the challenges but you don't want to alienate the students who are either not trying, or are trying but for whatever reason have not accomplished the same goals. But once you find a good way to motivate your students, you'll have an invaluable classroom tool.
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Raffles as Incentives
Many schools incorporate raffles or drawings into their attendance policies. At the end of each quarter or grading period, for example, the students with perfect attendance have their names entered into a drawing for prizes as small as candy. In the case of Elkhart Memorial High School Student Brittany Elsworth, the prize was a new car. Elkhart High School reached out to community businesses, thereby creating a huge incentive for perfect attendance while also giving the car dealership a lot of publicity. Depending on age level and region, prizes and rules may vary, but the bottom line is a tangible prize students can think of every day when they are deciding whether or not to attend class.
Rewarding Achievements with Celebrations
Another way to encourage students to attend class and reach certain academic goals is to reward their achievements with some kind of social outlet. According to the Hillsborough County Public Schools Website, Tampa Palms Elementary has come up with a sound strategy for rewarding perfect attendance. Tampa Palms reached out to the community and found a partner in Celebration Station, a theme park geared for children. Each grading period Celebration Station hosts a Perfect Attendance Celebration for select students and the event is supervised by PTA members. Throughout the school year students at Tampa Palms are frequently reminded of the celebration and what they need to do to meet the requirements.
Prizes and Cash for Academic Achievements
According to a 2008 Washington Post Article, "School officials from Tucson to Boston, desperate for ways to ratchet up test scores and close the achievement gap separating white and minority students, are paying kids who put up good numbers." Schools throughout the nation are offering prepaid cell phone cards and gift tokens, and sometimes straight-up cash for good grades, high test scores and perfect attendance. Academic professionals like DePaul University education professor Ronald Chennault see many ethical issues to these reward policies but many others, including Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, believe "the initiatives are a modest attempt to give children from low-income families a taste of the rewards, formal and informal, that kids from well-off backgrounds have enjoyed for years."
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