Chicago Public Schools officials today launched “The Paper Project,” a new Green for Grade$ financial incentive program, that will offer 5,000 ninth-grade students the opportunity to earn up to $2,000 in their first year of high school--simply for earning good grades.
The Paper Project, created by the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University (EdLabs), aims to develop student interest in school and a commitment to reaching academic goals during the first two years of high school when students are most at risk for dropping out. It will be the second Green for Grade$ program within CPS and will be one of several programs across the country that EdLabs at Harvard University has helped to design and will evaluate as part of ongoing research on innovative new programs in education.
“There are a lot of reasons why students choose to go to school, stay in school, and do well in school,” said CPS Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan, at UPLIFT Community High School, 900 W. Wilson, one of 20 schools across the city where the program will be piloted. “But not every high school student is motivated by sports, or music, or other extra-curricular activities. Our job is to reach every student in every school at this very critical age. The Paper Project is another tool we can use to offer our students clear academic goals and incentives that will help keep them focused and push them to perform at their best.”
The New York City and Washington, D.C., school systems already have introduced similar incentive programs for students at critical grade levels. Preliminary data for “The Million,” a similar program in New York City, has shown that more than 75 percent of parents report positive changes in their child as a result of the program, including that their child spent more time doing homework, got excited about specific classes or received higher grades. The program in Washington, D.C., which just launched last month, is called “Capital Gains.”
Data from another program in New York, called “Spark,” showed that 60 percent of schools reported that students involved saved the majority of their earnings rather than spent them.
The launch of The Paper Project is part of Green for Grade$, an ongoing effort by CPS to find new and innovative ways to motivate students. CPS unveiled the Bank on College program last June, in partnership with the Chase Foundation, which offers financial incentives to more than 350 students in AVID programs at three high schools. Students participating in Bank on College can earn money for their post-secondary education by accomplishing benchmarks for attendance, academic performance and college readiness.
All student financial incentives for The Paper Project will be donated by outside partners, and no taxpayer dollars will be used to fund the program. EdLabs will provide an initial investment of $2 million over two years to launch the project, and other partners are being sought.
Eligible students in The Paper Project can earn financial rewards for performance in five core classes: math, English, social science, science, and physical education. Students can earn $50 for each “A” they are given, $35 for a “B,” and $20 for any “C” earned during each five-week progress report period. A “straight-A” student has the potential to earn up to $4,000 over two years.
If a student fails a class, he/she will lose all money earned for that grading period. However, the student can eventually receive his/her earnings for that period if he/she completes the necessary make-up work to earn credit for the class (such as summer school).
Students will receive half of their earnings every five weeks during the freshman and sophomore years, and receive the balance of their earnings upon graduation from high school. Students will be encouraged to open savings accounts at a bank in which their earnings will be directly deposited. Students must have parental consent to participate.
“This program not only provides incentives to keep students focused on making good grades, it also teaches financial responsibility,” said Chicago Board of Education President Rufus Williams. “The Paper Project fits in well with our Green for Grade$ program and with our mission to educate, inspire, transform, because there are so many lessons to be learned with this kind of opportunity.
“The first year of high school is critical for building academic skills, and if a student falls behind early, it’s hard for them to catch up,” he added. “We’re looking for ways to reach these students early, keep them interested and on the path to success.”
Research shows that poor academic performance in the ninth grade directly corresponds to a student’s risk for dropping out of school. The Paper Project provides ninth-grade students with financial incentives for performance during that critical first year of high school, then focuses on transitioning students in their junior and senior years from financial incentives to using their own real-world goals as incentives for continued success in school.
In the third and fourth year of the program, when financial incentives are no longer available, students will receive college and career support to help them connect academic performance to their goals. And while students will no longer earn money for good grades, they may earn financial rewards for SAT/ACT test preparation and performance.
“Every day, students in high-need communities are exposed to negative pressures pointing them away from the belief that school is the best pathway to achieve their goals,” said Dr. Roland Fryer, professor of economics at Harvard University and creator of the incentive program. “Our project aims to motivate students, cultivate good habits, and foster a lifelong appreciation for the value of learning.”
EdLabs also will evaluate The Paper Project as part of ongoing research on similar programs across the United States to determine whether financial incentives help ninth-graders accumulate more credits and improve overall graduation rates compared to those benchmarks in traditional high school programs. EdLabs was founded to create and evaluate innovative ways of improving public education. Its goal is to transform public education using the scientific method.
“We must establish true equality of opportunity in education, but we also must be willing to take risks and explore bold strategies to engage students in their own academic success,” Fryer added. “I am thrilled to work with Chicago’s students and with educators who recognize the necessity of developing innovative programs to improve student achievement.”
Twenty CPS high schools were chosen by random lottery from 65 that applied. Eligibility for the lottery was based on the school’s need to improve freshman failure rates. In addition to UPLIFT, participating schools are Al Raby, Best Practice, Bowen Environmental Studies, Bowen Global Visions, Chicago Discovery Academy, Chicago Military, School of Entrepreneurship, Douglass, School of Leadership, Hirsch, Hope, Hubbard, Kennedy, Kelvyn Park, Manley, Phoenix Military, Richards, Senn, and Simeon.
The Paper Project will be administered by the CPS Office of High School Programs in partnership with EdLabs and the Children First Fund, the philanthropic arm of Chicago Public Schools.
The Chicago Public Schools is the nation’s third largest school system. It includes more than 650 schools and serves about 405,000 students.
For more information contact:
CPS Office of Communications
Phone: (773) 553-1620