Should schools pay students to do well? Should wealthy parents be allowed to make private donations to improve the public schools their children attend?
These are the types of questions that Harvard professor Michael Sandel posed to hundreds of educators at WNET’s Celebration of Teaching & Learning in March 2012. An author and ethicist, Sandel is best known for his lectures that engage audience members in debates about important ethical questions. His class at Harvard was the first in the institution’s history to be made available online in its entirety.Sandel said that his goal is to foster civic education and invigorate public discourse after three decades of what he calls “the era of market triumphalism” — the idea that market forces are the best way to achieve public good.
What happens, asked Sandel, when the values of the marketplace are applied to the educational system, a “sphere of life that is rightly governed by other values?” It’s a debate that came to New York City in 2008 when P.S. 188 in Manhattan launched a program to pay students for good grades on standardized tests.
But the verdict is out on the efficacy of such programs. One study that disbursed cash to students in three major cities revealed that in New York, where students were paid for high marks, test scores worsened whereas students in Chicago and Dallas showed moderate to high improvements.
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“MetroFocus: Education Innovation” premieres on May 15 at 10:30 p.m. on WLIW21; May 16 at 10:30 p.m. on NJTV; and May 17 at 8:30 p.m. on THIRTEEN.