New Study Shows That Paying Families To “Engage” In Schools Doesn’t Work

Last September, I wrote a post titled Conditional Cash Transfers, Parents, And Schools. It talked about a new program that was becoming fashionable called conditional cash transfers. These are payments made to families to encourage them to do things like go to doctor appointments, and to children for increased school attendance and higher standardized test scores.

In my post, I shared that, though I thought these funds could be used more effectively to fight poverty in other ways, I really couldn’t complain about putting a few more bucks in the hands of poor families — for non-school related efforts. I wrote about how I thought it was damaging to children and schools when it was connected to education benchmarks, and my post connected to studies that showed that. In another post, I wrote more specifically about my objections to paying students for increased test scores.

New York City had started a heralded, and expensive, conditional cash transfer program heavily focused on school-related objectives. The program just announced the results of an evaluation of the program and it didn’t work, particularly for the school-related goals. They’re shutting it down. You can read about it in the New York Times article City to End Program Giving Cash to the Poor.

Surprise, surprise.

I wonder what the results would have been if they instead had put that $40 million into supporting family engagement efforts that do work, like teacher home visits to listen and build relationships, and connect parents with others who have similar concerns so they can act together on them; family literacy projects initiated and led by parents; the development of parent/school community gardens; and encouraging parent and school participation in community-wide organizing efforts to improve neighborhoods.

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