Washington, D.C. Schools Pay Students $5.25 an Hour to Show Up for Summer School

Youth at risk of not graduating are given an extra incentive.
At-risk kids are given a leg up and a salary to attend summer school in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Troy Aossey)
Jul 31, 2012
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

In Washington, D.C., 305 kids are being paid $5.25 an hour to attend summer school. The plan is to prepare these rising ninth graders for the transition into high school. According to The Washington Examiner, the students chosen showed poor academic and behavioral records, and are at a greater risk of not graduating.

In 2011, less than 60 percent of students in D.C. public schools graduated high school on time. The Washington Post reports this is a nearly 20 percent decline from the previous year.

More: Horrific 10 Percent Literacy Rate Prompts ACLU to Sue Michigan Schools

The classes are part of The Summer Bridge program designed to offer academic enrichment in English and mathematics. Ninety-five kids signed up on their own. To fill the rest of the slots, D.C. Public Schools looked to the Department of Employment Services. The Examiner reports, "more than 300 students flagged by DCPS and who had signed up for the Summer Youth Employment Program were told that school would be their jobs this summer."

Paying kids to go to summer school can be a powerful incentive and some experts see it as worth exploring. However, according to political consultant Chuck Thies, it could also be a "slippery slope."

"How much will we pay going forward, and who will we pay, and what's the cutoff to get paid?" Thies said to The Examiner. "It's critical that we get at-risk students and underperforming students and failing students into the program, but I don't think incentivizing them with money sends the right message."

The results of the program will be studied with the potential of expanding next year.

Do you feel paying kids minimum wage to go to summer school is a good idea? Share your thoughts in comments.

Jenny is the Education Editor at TakePart. She has been writing for TakePart since 2009 and previously worked in film and television development. She has taught English in Vietnam and tutors homeless children in Los Angeles. Email Jenny | @jennyinglee | TakePart.com

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