Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Perfect Score

Desmond Rhodes: [trying to explain why SAT is racist] Who created the test? Rich white guys. Who scores the highest on the test?

Roy: Asian chicks. Middle class Asian chicks that watch less than one hour of television a day. They can't drive, but they can take the shit out of the SATs.

My son is taking the SAT today. He should do well because he is pretty good at taking tests. That is why we were surprised when he got his PSAT scores earlier this month. While I thought the scores were okay, they were actually lower than what he scored his sophomore year.

PSAT results are much more open than when I was in school. They actually tell you which answers you miss and which topics you need to study more. I looked a little deeper into the points to figure out where he had stumbled. Here is the breakdown on the math portion, which should be his strong suit:

8 of 11 easy questions
15 of 16 medium questions
11 of 11 hard questions

That’s right, he got all the hard questions right, but flubbed several easy questions. That shows he was careless and not stupid. I don’t mind him getting the score that reflects his ability. I just don’t want him to leave any points on the table.

I went into Parental Pep Talk #12: “These are high stakes tests and you should take them seriously. Check your answers. Don’t make foolish mistakes. Blah, blah, blah…” I watched his eyes roll back a full 180 degrees like only a teenager can do.

So I fell back on the one parental method I knew worked: Bribery. We use it a lot. For a perfect report card, we buy him a steak dinner at the restaurant of his choice. I’ve eaten at Frankie and Johnnies so much, I’m sick of the place. Time to move on to Peter Luger’s.

I made him a little offer. I would pay him one dollar for every point over 2000. For those of you that haven’t been writing checks to College Board in the past year or two, the SATs now include a writing section which is a combination of multiple choice questions and an essay. This section is worth another 800 points, bringing the top SAT score up to 2400.

Since my son, like his dad, is a math-wired person, this stacks the SAT deck against him a little more. I’m not worried about losing four benjamins. I tried to talk him into a penalty if he tanked, but he wasn’t buying. I’m just glad he is motivated, no matter how superficial the reason. If it works, it will have been a good investment.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: Am I a bad parent for paying for performance? Do you pay for grades? If so, what is the going rate?

Update (2/15/07): I owe him $80, and he didn't leave any money on the table in the math section.


Charlotte said...

I feel compelled to post twice in as many days. For awhile, my parents paid me for good grades. I was an A/B student (tended to get A's when I tried and B's when I didn't). They would pay for the A's to motivate me to work hard in school (even in subjects that bored me - never a problem with math and science).
HOWEVER - my sister was less academically inclined. When she hit middle school and couldn't get high grades even with trying her best, the monetary reward system was tossed out. I was not too happy with that.
I wish my parents had bribed me to try harder on my SAT's. I just didn't care that much. I scored okay - but not to my full potential (which I believe resulted in missing a few scholarships I otherwise could have obtained).
I say - go for it - do what it takes to get him motivated to double check his work and get the highest score of which his is capable.

yellojkt said...

That is the problem with dealing with children of different abilities. My little brother always lived in my shadow scholastically, but now he is very successful in his own right.

We would not mind B's on his report card if he were putting in a worthy effort. As long as he is phoning it in, we better see top grades.

Jennine said...

While I won't pay for grades, I do pay my children a buck everytime they say "Mom, are you losing weight?"

Anonymous said...

My daughter never cared much about grades. I knew she would need scholarship money to go to college, so she needed the grades and the SAT scores. We didn't have money to bribe her with; all my "extra" money was going for ballet classes, gymnastics and summer camp. I told her if she got straight A's she could have a cat--this was something she had wanted for years, and she really tried hard for it in 9th and 10th grade, came close a couple of times, but didn't achieve the straight A report card until 11th grade. So she got her cat and was very happy about it, and less than 2 years later she was off to college, leaving ME to feed the cat and take care of the litter box, etc. Oh, well. She did get a scholarship to college, but not her first choice school.


Thumper said...

Now that my son is 23 and I can look back...I don't care if it is "bad" parenting. I wish I had paid him for good grades. If I had, he'd have probably had a better study ethic. He's a hard worker now, and he got decent grades in high school, but he had the ability to do so much better, and I *know* a little cash on the table would have pushed him to reach a little farther.

Elizabeth said...

I teach special ed. and have a money reward system for my students. They work hard and they get real money to spend in my school store. My store has really good stuff so they are very motivated. I have solid data to back up this technique. Hey, I work for a paycheck, why can't they?

Mooselet said...

Mine concern isn't so much the grade, it's the effort. I can deal with a mediocre grade if the effort is there - the Teen struggles with math but as long as she's trying her best we accept she'll never get that 'A'. I don't have a set moentary bribe for good grades, but they know good grades equals shopping trip for something special. School is their job, after all.

And I wish I had the writing portion on my SATs all those years ago... it would've made up for my own mediocre math score.

Harmonica Man said...

I've tried bribery - it didn't work. If I thought it would help I would gladly mortgage my house for high grades, but alas - I have nothing to worry about there.

Anonymous said...

Jeez, yello- I'd say you should do anything you can short of a felony to get kids to get good grades and good SAT scores (Misdemeanors are acceptable).

I'm lucky, my kids all get good grades with only minor bribery.

Paying a dollar a point over 2000 - good thinking.


Claude said...

I'm with Mooselet in that it comes down to the effort involved. And, assuming that the entire test is about as tough as it was back when we took it and the top score was 1600 (never mind that there aren't as many questions involving dinosaurs now that they're extinct), then 2000 is somewhere between a reasonable target and a nice jumping-off point if he's willing to rise to the challenge.

Look at it this way: you do your own job well, you get a paycheck at the end of the week. Our kids' job right now is to learn. Everything else is just gravy. Do it well and be rewarded. How is it different?

trusty getto said...

Paying for grades? Less than ideal.

Does it make you a bad parent? No way.

If I had a nickel for every "less than ideal" tactic I've used to get my kids to excel, I'd be rich enough to at least hire a parenting consultant.

The only real question in my mind is when I will start paying my oldest for her grades. Notice that wasn't an "if," it was a "when."


Impetua said...

My daughter is 2 1/2 so I can only speak to my own experience. Paying me for high grades was like a nice bonus, but not once over the course of the school year did I think to myself, "I'd better kick it into high gear! There's twenty bucks riding on this!" I think I got ten bucks for each A and five for B's, something like that. Bear in mind that this was (cough cough) more than 20 years ago, and if I got five A's, that was some pretty decent cash .

I had no support or encouragement beyond, "Do your best!" the morning of the test when I went to do my SAT's. No SAT prep in class, no workbooks, no nothing. I was very nervous about it and my then-boyfriend (my how times do change) bet me that I would beat at least one of his scores. He was a math/computer geek and I was more of the English major type, so it was a kind of sure-thing bet in that chances were good that I would beat one of his scores. He was a nice guy.

Ha ha, I beat them both, for a total of 1300.

(I later went on to take (and pass) through third term of calculus, but that was about my limit. I never had a feeling for it.)

I think your plan is good with the "buck a point over 2k" and I'm glad you're providing some guidance and support around this. I was pretty much on my own and found it all to be confusing and overwhelming. I think my life would have turned out much differently had I had an interested parent leading the way for me a bit.

Anonymous said...

My dad used to pay me to shoot (I didn't even have to score) in basketball in high school. It was not very effective...

used*to*be*me* said...

The Vile Teenager's mom paid her for grades. She would pull her head out just in time for report cards and slack ass the rest of the time. Sooooo, I'm not really a fan.

However, like TG said, it doesn't make you a bad parent. We all do things that in hindsight probably aren't the greatest idea. But, since the kiddos don't come with owner manuals, we are on our own for the most part.

You pay for the points. I threaten to beat with sticks. Bah.