- Cape student sues, accuses school officials of slamming her to ground multiple times (04/28/16)46
- Neelys Landing man shot, killed by highway patrol trooper after traffic stop (05/01/16)31
- Bob Evans restaurant in Cape Girardeau among chain's 21 closings (04/26/16)9
- Missouri House votes to allow concealed weapons without permits (04/28/16)8
- Police report filed, but no charges in incident at Cape Central (04/29/16)40
- Two hurt in motorcycle wreck on Interstate 55 (04/25/16)1
- 2016 All-Missourian Boys Basketball (04/29/16)
- Senator introduces bill for I-57 that would connect Sikeston with Little Rock (04/28/16)4
- Law firm requests information about Cape's traffic cameras (04/25/16)3
- Local lawmakers split over failed medical marijuana bill; voters may have a say (04/26/16)19
Some St. Louis schools trying cash incentives for attendance
ST. LOUIS -- Some school districts have tried everything to get parents to send their children to class and to persuade the them to behave when they get there.
Now, for the first time, St. Louis schools are offering cash incentives.
Urban Strategies, a not-for-profit organization, is offering $300 per child for those who choose Jefferson Elementary School over competitors such as charter schools and magnets.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports there are stipulations. Money is limited to students who didn't attend the school last year, and students must have near-perfect attendance and avoid out-of-school suspensions. Parents must also attend three PTO meetings.
The value of paying for children's attendance and behavior is being debated in a half-dozen cities. A Harvard University study of 38,000 students at 261 low-performing urban schools in four cities showed that incentives improve classroom behavior, but not necessarily test scores.
Proponents liken cash incentives to college scholarships, and say low-income families need the extra help. But critics say the incentives fail to address the real problems such as bad teaching or dull curriculum.
"It's almost like bribing [the students] instead of correcting the core problems," said Garrett Duncan, an associate professor of education at Washington University.
But his colleague, education professor William Tate, found no fault with the program.
"What they're really saying to these kids is your presence on a regular basis is important," he said. "It's so important we're going to reward you for doing it."
Stacey Wright and her three children recently moved to St. Louis from Oxford, Miss. Wright, an in-home caregiver, weighed more than a dozen school choices before choosing Jefferson, which sits right across the street from her home. The program is being offered to families in three mixed-income housing complexes surrounding the school, where most of the students live.
"It's an awesome deal," Wright said. "A lot of us can use that money. It doesn't sound like a lot, but it makes a big difference."
Jefferson principal Nathalie Means spent this month mailing fliers and calling parents about the $300 incentive program. Seventeen families enrolled their children as a result, Means said.
Many of the transfers came from two charter schools that did not reopen this year.
Not everyone jumped at the chance.
"There were some parents who said, 'We like our school, we're not going to move back,'" Means said. "With the behavior piece in there, we had some families who said, 'I don't know if my kid can make it."'
Enrollment at Jefferson is on the decline. It dropped to 246 last year, from 436 in 2005-06, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Earlier this month, parents got letters informing them that less than 15 percent of students passed reading and math sections of last year's Missouri Assessment Program testing. The letter offered parents the option of transferring to other schools in the district.
"There's always the fear that a school might close," Means said. "We came up with this as a way to start the incline."