The teacher in Vancouver, Wash., who decided to make elementary school students pay to pee with play money earned for good behavior set off a firestorm after two parents complained their third graders wet their pants because each couldn’t afford a bathroom trip. Mill Plain Elementary School denied any children were barred from the bathroom, saying those without adequate “funds” to pay to pee were allowed emergency bathroom visits. With one of the two investigations complete, the teacher involved has not faced consequences, according to the Columbian. The girl whose complaint was investigated was withdrawn from school by her family because of her experience with the pay to pee policy. That policy was intended to curb excess bathroom visits.
Some experts say extrinsic rewards are a bad idea altogether, the New York Times reported in 2009, undermining the joy of learning and encouraging cheating. Other experts disagree, insisting that incentive program design matters.
Controversy over the efficacy of rewards for expected behavior doesn’t stop teachers from devising incentive programs, and some schools have even paid for student attendance and academic performance. Is pay to pee the worst incentive idea ever? Here are some other incentive programs to compare.
In 2006, Johnson Park Middle School in Columbus, Ohio, decided to reward parents for volunteering at school. The problem? Parents were allowed to buy higher grades for their children with incentive points earned, the blog Incentive-Intelligence said.
Bothwell Middle School in Marquette, Michigan, passes out gold cards for good behavior which are entered into weekly raffles for prizes that go far beyond trinkets. Some of the prizes include ski lift tickets and rentals, movie and merchant gift certificates, and iTunes gift cards. The year-end prize is a new bicycle.
The Washington Times reported on other over-the-top incentives including a new car raffle for students with perfect attendance at Santa Ana Unified School District. iPods were also on the prize list.
Schools in the United States are not alone in being faulted for their efforts at what some call student bribery. In a perverse twist, one school in the United Kingdom paid certain students with excellent attendance to skip school. The students in question were known for their bad behavior, and they were paid as much as 100 pounds for their absence during a government inspection, the Daily Mail noted.
Detroit public school administrators similarly sought to game the system last year by bribing kids to show on the day the state calculates attendance for allocating state aid, as reported by WWJ. They offered a barbeque lunch to all, as well as the opportunity to win iPad minis, bicycles, and gift cards.