Ohio School Uses Gift Cards to Bribe Kids to Attend Class

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If you’re one those people who thinks kids today have it easy — maybe you had to walk uphill to school, both ways, in the snow — well, this is going to sound like another step towards societal decay: Students at one high school in Ohio are rewarded with Visa gift cards just for showing up. 

The Dohn Community High School in Cincinnati is spending $40,000 on an initiative to get around 170 kids to actually attend classes. The high school, which is described by a local news blog as “a charter school … comprised of mostly drop-out recovery students from other schools and other at-risk students from nearby communities,” had only a 13.8% graduation rate in the 2009-2010 school year. The school has been called an “academic emergency” by the state Department of Education.

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To try fixing this, the school launched a program this week that gives Visa gift cards to students who show up on time, attend classes, and stay out of trouble. Seniors get $25 a week; underclassmen get $10.

In addition, for every week a student gets a gift card, the school will deposit $5 into a savings account that the student can access upon graduation. While one other program requirement is that students be “productive,” there aren’t any objective grade or score minimums.

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Principal Ramone Davenport defended the program to Cincinnati.com saying, “People will say you’re rewarding kids for something they should already be doing anyway. … But they’re not doing it. We’ve tried everything else.” The money, the article says, comes from the federal Workforce Investment Act, and from private donations.

CBS Cleveland reports that although the program is only a week old, money talks — at least to high-school kids: Attendance is already up 15%.