Küdzoo Pays Students for Good Grades, But Experts Have Mixed Views

Tech
Posted By Candace Talmadge on January 29, 2016 at 9:19 am
Küdzoo Pays Students for Good Grades, But Experts Have Mixed Views

A mobile app called Küdzoo has added a technology twist to the continuing debate over paying students for a good or improved report card.

Available nationally since June of 2015, the free app has approximately half a million active users and that number is growing at a double-digit pace, said Logan Cohen, KÜDZOO co-founder and co-CEO. The target audience is between the ages of 13 and 25, from middle to graduate school, added Trevor Wilkins, KÜDZOO co-founder and co-CEO.

After students sign up, they submit their grades, attendance, and grade point average improvements to the app in return for deals and gift cards from local and national businesses that pay sponsor fees to KÜDZOO. Students can also earn rewards by submitting correct answers to daily trivia and SAT questions found in the KÜDZOO Q&A.

Parents are not involved in the process. “We wanted to put responsibility for improving their performance entirely in the students’ hands,” Wilkins said. Moreover, KÜDZOO  provides “support for students who might not have support at home,” for their education efforts, Cohen said.

Research shows mixed results on benefits of paying for grades

In designing the app, the two incorporated some of the findings of a landmark study conducted during the 2007-2008 and 2010-2011 school years by the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University. Researchers paid out $9.4 million to about 36,000 students between the second and ninth grades in 250 schools in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

They discovered that cash and incentives have a powerful but limited impact. Payment or rewards worked to improve performance for certain tasks, such as completing math objectives or reading books and increasing reading comprehension. Cash and incentives, however, did not significantly raise grades or test scores or positively impact other tasks like wearing a school uniform or completing homework assignments.

Paying students for good grades is not productive, maintained Joel Ingersoll, Ph.D., CMC, president of Take On College, LLC, in Oradell, N.J. “Payments encourage students to focus on learning how to take tests for a desired financial reward instead of mastering content and application of knowledge,” he wrote in an email. In addition, “financial reward for good grades sets students up to generalize their expectations for extrinsic rewards and reduces the likelihood that they develop personalized intrinsic reward.”

Paying for grades reflects real world compensation

“We hope that students have internal motivation, desire to do good work, strong work ethic and desire to excel. That’s not enough,” countered Donna M. Lubrano, an adjunct faculty member for marketing, communications, and international business at Northeastern University in Boston. Her parents paid her for good grades when she was in elementary and high school. “We need to sweeten the pot, by offering tangible evidence of good performance other than a grade. It prepares students for the real world.”

Instead of external rewards, Ingersoll said, motivate young people by offering them choices of learning activities, and challenging them to master and apply material. Additionally, infusing curriculum with relevant personal development skills will likely lead students to more interest in learning because they have the opportunity to establish how content is connected to their lives and goals.

Lubrano, however, recently attended a program to teach entrepreneurial skills to children that offered “bucks” for good performance that could be redeemed for merchandise and other items. “It was fun, created a bit of competition, and fueled our personal motivation,” she said. “Can it replace internal or personal motivation; it would be difficult. Can it enhance and extend; absolutely.”

Candace Talmadge
Candace Talmadge has been a professional writer since 1976. She has been on staff or reported and written freelance for media that includes Adweek, Advertising Age, BusinessWeek, the Dallas Times Herald, the International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, and Reuters America.

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