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3 (33) - 10 PART 1 F o R IN 0 U I R I N G M I N D S...

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Unformatted text preview: 10 PART 1 F o R IN 0 U I R I N G M I N D S c.n-n...n.n..._--.n.n.n..--.....-.u..--.._._......-.....g...................................._._._......-....... Pay for Grades? WHAT IS ECONOMICS? The true reward for learning is, of course. the learning itself. But teachers and 3 schools often feel that it's worth throwing in a few extras. Elementary school students 5 who do well get gold stars: at higher levels. students who score well on tests may receive trophies. plaques. or even gift certificates. But what about cash? _ A few years ago, some Florida schools stirred widespread debate by offering 5 actual cash bonuses to students who scored high on the state's standardized E exams. At Parrott Middle Sd'lool, which offered the highest amounts. an eighth- grader with a top score on an exam Many people questioned the monetary awards. In fact. the great majority of teachers feel that cash rewards for learning are a bad idea—the dollar amounts can't be made large enough to give students a real sense of how important their education is. and they make learning seem like work-for-pay. So why did the schools engage in the practice? The answer, it turns out, is that the previous year the state government had introduced a pay-for-performanoe scheme for schools: schools whose students earned high marks on the state exams received extra state funds. The problem arose of how to motivate the students to take the exams as seriously as the school administrators did. Parrott’s principal defended the pay-for-grades practice by pointing out that good students would often ”Christmas tree” their exams—ignore the questions and fill out the bubble sheets in the shape of Christmas trees. With large sums of money for the school at stake. he decided to set aside his misgivings and pay students to do well on the exams. Does paying students for grades lead to higher grades? Interviews with students suggest that it does spur at least some students to try harder on state exams. And some Florida schools that have introduced rewards for good grades on state exams report substantial improvements in student performance. received a $50 savings bond. Individual Choice: Summing It Up We have just seen that there are four basic principles of individual choice: I Resources are scarce. [t is always necessary to make choices. I The real cost of something is what you must give up to get it. All costs are opportunity costs. I “How much?” is a decision at the margin. Usually the question is not "whether” but "how much." And that is a question whose answer hinges on the costs and bene- fits of doing a bit more or a bit less. I People usually exploit opportunities to make themselves better off. As a result, people will respond to incentives. So are we ready to do economics? Not yet—because most of the interesting things that happen in the economy are the result not merely of individual choices but of the way in which individual choices interact. *ECONOMICSINACTION A Woman's Work One of the great social transformations of the twentieth century was the change in the nature of women’s work. In 1900. only 6 percent of married women worked for pay outside the home. By 2005, the number was about 60 percent. What caused this transformation? Changing attitudes toward work outside the home certainly played a role: in the first half of the twentieth century. it was often considered improper for a married woman to work outside the home if she could afford not to. whereas today it is considered normal. But an important driving force was the invention and growing availability of home appliances. especially washing machines. Before these appliances became available. housework was an extremely laborious task—much more so than a full-time job. In 1945. government researchers clocked a farm wife as she did the weekly wash by hand: she spent 4 hours washing clothes and 456 hours ironing. and she walked more than a mile. Then she was ...
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