Monday, October 22, 2007

Harvard Crimson on REACH

The Harvard Crimson today had two editorials about the REACH program (apparently without knowledge that the funder and founder of the program, Bill Ackman and I, know each other from our Harvard undergrad days -- we met selling advertising for the Let's Go series of travel guides in the summer of 1986).
Regarding the second editorial, which criticizes the program (was I that clueless in college?  Hint: YES!), here's how we answer the issues the editorial raises (from the Frequently Asked Questions of our web site:

Might monetary incentives pervert the  ideal of education and demotivate students since now they're studying for money rather than the joy of learning?

    We don't think so – in fact, we believe that rewarding hard work and high achievement will result in even higher motivation.  These students are not children – most are savvy young adults, about to go off to         
    college, and have held jobs and know what it’s like to earn money in exchange for hard work.  But almost all of them are poor and thus don’t have the same opportunities and resources that most other students  
    do.  They have very real and pressing financial needs to, for example, pay for college visits and applications, books, class trips and the senior prom, so in many cases they are forced to make a choice no student
    should have to make: between committing to their studies or taking a job (usually a low-paying, dead-end one).  

REACH  seeks to level the playing field and help ease the students’ financial burdens so they can make an important investment in their future, which is  tremendously exciting and motivating.  To see students’ enthusiastic reactions to the REACH program, click here <>   to go to the web page for the REACH launch event and watch some of the videos,  and click here <>  to read what students and others are saying about REACH.


Opinion: Pay for Performance
Students will benefit from monetary rewards for high scores
The Harvard Crimson
By The <>  Crimson Staff
October 19, 2007

If someone offered you $1,000 for getting a five on an Advanced Placement (AP) Exam, would you take it? We certainly would. And if you attend one of 25 low-performing high schools in New York City, now you can. This particular incentive is part of a larger program being implemented in New York City this year under the auspices of Roland Fryer, assistant professor of economics at Harvard. The idea behind the program is to “pay for performance” by monetarily rewarding students who do well on standardized tests. Despite concerns that the program undermines pure academic motives, it is a commendable initiative.


Dissenting Opinion: Paying the Way Forward
Monetary incentives pervert the ideal of education
The Harvard Crimson
By Pierpaolo Barbieri <>  
October 19, 2007

There is consensus among the liberal elites that the American education system is a fundamentally flawed one, and that it requires sweeping reform. Nevertheless, I dissent from the Crimson Staff in their endorsement of monetary incentives for New York City schools that serve communities with a high proportion of low-income Latino or black students. Doubtless, many of the students from such disadvantaged backgrounds need help to stay in school and focus on their studies, which are eventually what will give them a chance at better circumstances. But paying the way forward will not pave the way forward.

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