Friday, February 09, 2007

Incentives to get Educated

Peoria Promise, as detailed to me so far, is an incentive for parents who might not see any college planning in the future of their children. There are as usual a number of questions that will be posed before some people will contribute to the fund. I haven’t talked to the Mayor recently but I will and receive more details but I will ask a few questions and make a few comments on this site. Who will be included on the oversight committee? If a large number of students enroll in the system, the selection process must be by lottery if there is a no qualifying minimum high school grade point average. I suggest anyone with a too low GPA is not ready for college. Since the Mayor says preference will be given to longevity of attending schools in the area and Mr. Collier says middle class and lower middle class parents are the ones that need help in educating their kids, it may appear that those in poverty levels or below will be given no special preference.

I believe the private contributors will insist that those families and children receiving scholarships, be citizens of this country and have mastered the English language. My experience has been that the oversight committee must be independent of any school of higher education these kids might attend. Committee members should not be selected from any school board and that none be administrators or staff of any school and those who do the selecting of who will receive scholarships do not have any kids that might be eligible. Members of the educational community should act as advisors; since this effort will be privately funded, the oversight committee should come from the private sector.

Over dozens of years, many ideas have been presented by the community to educators as to how to make our school programs more appealing to those who do not understand they need a good education to earn the good wages; wages they believe by some misguided thought process they feel they should be entitled to earn. The presentation of more Vo/Tech training and on the job training as shown in today’s WSJ titled “Playing at Professions” Job Theme Park for Children is a Huge Success in Japan”. The theme park called Kidzania can accommodate 3,000 children a day and is hugely successful. The importance of job preparation is stressed as one teacher said “otherwise, children would tend to choose the easy jobs.” The park was created because many young people lack the diligent work ethic and more young people are dropping out of jobs and many not even looking for them. About 640,000 single Japanese between the ages of 15 and 34 are neither at work nor at school.

Much dismay has been expressed as to why parents aren’t more involved in making public school systems more effective. There are about as many reasons why parents aren’t as there are reasons why many parents are. Many programs have been tried to get parents more involved in the good guidance of their children including one being designed by members of the City Council such as detailed in an article titled “Parental Responsibility Law on the Drawing Board” written by Jennifer Davis in the JS on 2/1/07. Articles have appeared quoting District #150 and the County Health Department stating that “we can’t raise and educate kids alone” and that the whole community must be more participatory. Hundreds of solutions and possible solution have been brought before the public in hundreds of books, news media and the spoken word. Many pockets of success are documented to be copied. I understand Peoria Promise is going to be tailored after a successful program in Kalamazoo, Michigan that was started in 2005.

What communities are realizing is that we must show kids incentives that they can understand to get them thru at least high school and some college time. However, it would be a serious mistake just to send kids to college before they are ready to accept the responsibility of applying themselves to the opportunities presented. It would be another mistake if these kids aren’t counseled as to what fields have the greatest need for educated graduates. It would be a mistake to make kids believe that since they are rewarded with a college degree they will all be “Chiefs and no Indians” a quote by Garrison Keillor’s in one of his recent books. It would be a mistake to let kids believe that just because they have a college degree, they are entitled to high paying white collar jobs.

When kids graduate from college, they must understand that their degree gave them a hunting license to get a financially adequate, community contributory and personally satisfactory job.

Also, on 2/1/07 and article appeared in the WSJ titled “Keeping up with the Chavez’s” written by Francis Fukuyama, Professor of International Economy at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies among other titles. The article states that there has been little new thinking in the U.S. on social policies for the poor. Part of the problem is that while social policy is popular, it has many pitfalls. Public social policies have a tendency to become entrenched entitlements controlled by teachers unions whose main interests are protecting the interests of adults in the system rather than the children. But other countries with a populist bent have tried to design educational programs that take incentives into account from the get-go. The Mexican Progresa Program pays poor people a stipend on the condition that they send their children to school, recognizing the fact that many poor families see greater benefit in putting their children to work rather than educating them. Studies document that Progresa has raised school attendance dramatically. Early success caused the program to be expanded broadly but long term educational outcomes are less certain.

Yet, the success of Progresa has led to its being copied by other parts of Latin America where the Bolsa Familia reaches some 15 million poor in Brazil and appears to have had an actual impact in lowering that country’s income inequality; Brazil’s inequality being one of the highest in the world. What has allowed people like Venezuela’s Chavez to win over the vote are policies similar to Progresa and Bolsa Families and their ability to promise, and to a certain extent, deliver on social policy—things like education and health and other social services particularly for the poor.

Most born in this community realized at some point in our early lives that we had to learn to read well, write well and speak well to avoid living in poverty.. The overwhelming majority of us accomplished these attributes thru our educational systems and our paying attention to what was going on around us and being sure those we mainly associated with were on the same upward mobility track on which we were trying to stay. We recognized incentives more easily than did many of the uneducated, middle class or poor. For those of us who made reasonable successes of our live, more thanks is owed to our parents, no matter what was, or is, their income or position in their community. Most of us never realized or appreciated our parental, school and community guidance in our in early lives. To have parents who did guide us and offer us incentives such as, “if you want to live here with us in OUR HOUSE and enjoy what we do have”; that was incentive enough to get us out of bed, go to school, pay attention while there and develop a work and responsibility ethic.

I have written dozens of articles on the successes and failures of the public school system. One article you may want to read was published on this site on 4/24/05 and titled “School Daze”. Another is titled “The Educational Battleground” published 11/20/05. Another blog is about a partial solution for the truancy problem dated March 26, 2005.

I wish the community and the Mayor success in this venture and realize it is another beginning. We need to create incentives that “kids can understand” (just because we do, doesn’t mean, they do) as to why they need to take advantage of what I believe to be the best overall educational system in the world. We need to get the best teachers we can get and pay them on a “performance” basis, the same as the private sector does with their non-union employees, and some performance pay with even union assistance. I refer you to my blog dated 10/21/05 “Incentive Pay for Teachers” and my blog dated 12/13/05 “Linking Pay to Performance”.

Thank you for reading me and I will appreciate your comments.


ben said...

What would you propose for a minimum GPA requirement? My gut says 2.5, but I don't have a wide enough base of secondary-school experience to be confident that it's a good choice.

For a student whose only barrier to learning is themselves, I think 3.0 should always be achievable. For the students targeted by this initiative, however, I'm guessing that there will often be 'distractions' outside of school that will keep a scholarship-deserving student from maintaining a B average.

Merle Widmer said...


I answered you but my return coment has never appeared on my site. I am answering other comments and they arent't appearing either. Maybe my efforts to stop advertisers to ride in my comment section has also locked me out. If you did recive my reply a few days ago, please email or put infor in another comment bar. Until I figure out what's happening I'll answer comments with new blogs.


Anonymous said...

No, I never did see your reply. I've had a couple of those disappearing comments on my Blogger page, as well. I feel your pain.