What might be done to motivate adolescent students to work harder? One approach is to hold students accountable for their performance by ensuring that their work is tied to real consequences—and rewards. The College Readiness Program of the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) has helped hundreds of thousands of students from low-income families succeed in Advanced Placement coursework. While cash incentives for students have a mixed record, robust evaluations of NMSI’s program, conducted by the economist Kirabo Jackson, show how incentivizing outcomes can affect both short- and long-term student outcomes, particularly when coupled with teacher support. Jackson’s evaluations of the NMSI program show that it increases college attendance by 4.2 percentage points while increasing college readiness as well as longer-term workforce outcomes. To learn more about how extrinsic motivation gets kids to work harder and learn more, read Adam Tyner and Mike Petrilli’s full article on EdNext.org. For more information about student incentive programs, check out “Cash for Test Scores” from our Fall 2008 issue.

—Education Next

Last updated May 16, 2018