The traditional incentives for attending school—getting into a good college, avoiding punishment at home, possibly learning some useful stuff—don’t seem to be doing the job. To boost attendance at struggling schools, districts and local businesses are resorting to giveaways and prizes ranging from Nikes to new cars.
A sneaker store in midtown Detroit recently made news by announcing it would be giving away free Nikes to thousands of high school students, and the only requirement to get the freebie is attending school on one certain day this autumn.
All students in the city’s public high schools who show up on October 3—a.k.a., Count Day, when an official count is taken to determine state funding—will receive a voucher good for a free pair of sneakers. The Detroit News estimates that the store donating the sneakers, Bob’s Classic Kicks, will give away 14,000 to 17,000 pairs of black leather low-top Nikes that retail for $80 and up. (Students don’t have their choice of sneakers—that’s the only option.)
A free pair of sneakers is hardly the only incentive being waved in front of kids to get them to do what they’re supposed to do and actually attend school. What else might students received simply for showing up? The prizes include:
The Dallas Independent School District is giving out $1,500 worth of prepaid debit cards in a random drawing for all students who attend the first day of school, August 27. The district has stated it is not unusual for tens of thousands of students to be absent on the first day of the school year. The prizes will be given in the form of $500 cards to three students—one in each of the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
Last winter, a high school in Cincinnati made news when it began handing out Visa gift cards to students who show up to school on time, attend all of their classes, and stay out of trouble. Seniors received $25 cards, while underclassmen were forced to accept cards worth a mere $10. For each week of good attendance, the school put an extra $5 into a savings account for the student, which can be accessed after graduation.
The DeSoto Independent School District in Texas will be holding drawings for free iPads as prizes to students who arrive at school on time for the first five days of the upcoming school year (August 27 to 31). “No tardies or early dismissals” warns the district, which is giving out one free iPad in each of its 13 schools.
Major League Baseball Tickets
The Kansas City Royals and the Houston Astros are both known to give away two free tickets apiece to students with perfect attendance (at least one semester’s worth) in local schools.
Last spring, eight students in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas (Texas yet again!) were given free cars as rewards for perfect attendance, as well as academic performance. The giveaway, which includes electronics and gift cards as well as cars, is organized by Score a Goal, a nonprofit program that works with local businesses—such as car dealerships—to offer incentives for students to go to school and get good grades. In addition to cars, roughly 200,000 sporting events tickets have been given out as rewards to students. “Every year we’ve done this we’ve seen an increase in attendance and in perfect attendance,” one high school principal told the Fort Worth Telegram. “Obviously, if a kid is not in school, they’re not going to learn. We try to get them to see the value of coming to school.”
Cars have also been given out via lottery to students with perfect attendance for at least five months in spots such as Tampa Bay, Florida, and Elk Grove, Calif.
Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.