As part of his extended experiments with the Houston public schools, Roland Fryer reports on a trial which he calls “Aligning Student, Parent, and Teacher Incentives.” Fryer paid students for mastering math objectives, paid parents $20 for attending parent-teacher conferences to discuss their child’s math performance, and paid teachers for both parent-teacher conferences and for student test score performance. Altogether Fryer spent $875,000, at a cost of $500 per student. On average, teachers got $1,100; parents received $240; kids got $225.
When compared to a control group, students more than doubled the number of math objectives mastered and parents attended nearly twice the number of parent-teacher conferences. These are very large effects.
Fryer points out that incentives produce much bigger results in his experiment than has generally been found in the past. Maybe this is due to aligning student/parent/teacher objectives. Or, maybe, the Hawthorne effect strikes again. But surely, an incentive scheme which appears to double what’s learned at the cost of a few percent of annual per student expenditures deserves lots of attention.