Govt. Puts a Real Crimp on Canadian Dropouts

The provincial government of Ontario has passed a law whereby a teenager loses his license if he drops out of school. Pretty clever. Dropping out would probably only be about 1/3 as appealing if you couldn’t drive. There are very narrow provisions in the law — not many kids would really lose their licenses, and they’d get them back when they turned 18 anyway — but I have a feeling this kind of negative incentive might be more effective than the positive but mushy incentives that some schools try to keep their kids in school, like this one:

Oregon schools offer free cars to entice kids to class
Monday, September 18, 2006
Associated Press – Idaho News
PHOENIX, Ore. — Phoenix High School students have a powerful new incentive to attend class — the chance to win a car.

Students who show up 95 percent of the time while maintaining a B average will be eligible to win a used car donated by Lithia Motors. “It’s a fun opportunity to highlight that we value attendance,” Principal Jani Hale said.

More and more schools across Oregon and the nation are using incentives ranging from cash to cars to encourage pupils to go to class. The schools need solid attendance figures to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The carrot doesn’t always work, however. The attendance rate at Crater High School in Central Point dropped last year when school officials held a drawing for a car. Though the reward didn’t have the desired effect, the school is offering two cars this school year.

“I don’t think the car giveaway had a substantial impact on attendance as a whole,” said Walt Davenport, Crater High dean of students. “The goal was more about recognizing students who are doing the right thing because we spend a lot of time on interventions on students who aren’t doing the right thing.”

It’s also been argued, in a paper by Thomas Dee and Brian Jacob, that high schools requiring students to taken an exit exam can actually exacerbate the dropout problem, particularly among low-income students.

(Hat tip: Dan Dickinson)


Neuronius

In some places, mining towns come to mind as an example, enough pressure has been put on business to only hire people with high school diplomas. Most kids in these situations drop out of school to work for the big bucks so taking away their potential job prospects is a good motivator to stay in school for two more years.

Andi

Raymond, here, here! There is a value to the institution itself, (it's where the administrators go to get their fat paychecks,)certainly not to the individual child forced into these public warehouses/prisons for at least six hours per day for twelve years.

How about giving the exit exam and diploma to any child who wants to take it? Just how many twelve and thirteen year old kids would suddenly be freed from the shackles of public education?

How about making education voluntary? How about throwing out bullies? How about paying teachers per student per actual daily attendance? The teacher could then turn around and pay students to attend his classes if he chose. Anything to increase the personal responsibility between teacher and students and overthrow the immoral, inept, cronyistic administration. Of course, I may be biased. I recently and briefly had a child enrolled in the San Bernardino Unified School District.

Read more...

misterwilliam

According to this Time article (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1181646-1,00.html)
Ontario isn't the only place that has this law Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia and West Virginia are suppose to have similar laws as well. (See page 6, paragraphs 1 & 2.)

mikealao

I don't see a problem with high school exit exams exacerbating the dropout problem since the kids that drop out for this reason really shouldn't hold a high-school diploma in the first place.

crabwalk

There's a Freakonomic problem with driver's license restrictions, though: Most states allow some form of homeschooling, often requiring little or not documentation as proof.

When Kentucky passed its dropout/license law, the result was a boom in the number of people calling themselves homeschooled. There's even a name for them in the homeschooling world: "homefoolers."

The result of all this is that, when driver's license proposals like these have been made, homeschoolers usually unite to oppose them because they believe homefoolers dilute the legitimacy of "real" homeschoolers. That's what happened here in Texas, for instance, where state law gives school systems no right to confirm a homeschooler is actually being taught anything.

speed

Crater High? Change the name.

Assuming 100 students and a $10,000 car, an awful lot of work is required to get a raffle ticket with a theoretical value of $100.

Raymond

Okay, but... Absent wierd, market bending pressure from government agencies, what is the actual value of finishing HS? We all know the average income figures, but that does not address individual cases.

Given that (1) the last two years of HS is make-work, and (2) 17-18 y/o males are especially unsuited to sitting in a room all day, and (3) the majority of K-12 teachers are incompetant, what is the actual value of forcing someone to stay there?

UMKevin

I realize the article was about the Canadian program but I can't believe the story about the car giveaway. Clearly no economists were consulted before they decided this was a good idea.

For one thing, there aren't a whole lot of dropouts who are deciding between a B average and 95% attendance and dropping out.

Also, any Freakonomics reader/econ geek can tell you that placing a weak punishment (not being in the car raffle)on a non-desired behavior more often than not encourages that behavior. Students see being taken out of the raffle, which as the commenter above noted they had a terrible chance of winning, as a very small "cost" of being a bad student. If not for the contest students would have been focused on the social norm of doing well in school as well as viewing the more important costs of not doing well like having limited future opportunities.

So not only does it not encourage dropout-minded kids to stay in school but it probably lowers performance and attendance in general for a large part of the student body.

Read more...

speed

Re 6: Raymond! Check your spelling.

Veda

Late jumping in here, but can't just pass up #6/Raymond's comment without one of my own. First off, what makes sitting all day for a 17/18 y/o male in a high school classroom any different from that of a college classroom/office desk/button machine - for any person at any age? Second, I wonder why you think it's the teachers that are incompetent when typically, it's the multiple "boards" above them that rule curriculum/classroom activities. I won't say there's "value in forcing someone to stay there" but I can tell you that when going to school is taught to be something that is simply a fact of life, when the kid gets to HS and is told, "Gee, what's the point? Go ahead, drop out," there are only two reactions for that kid to choose from:

1-Consider all time/effort put in to schooling up until this point a complete waste of time and feel like an idiot for believing there were solid reasons for going to school or

2-Jump at the chance with two feet and an excited little happy dance.

Either way, the kid is the one to lose. If you don't think it's valuable to "force" the kid to stay in school (given the kid already goes to school and is not a home-based learner), then don't. But don't offer "dropping out" as the alternative. Offer schooling at home, or if the kid's a genius, be sure to have his/her travel arrangements to Yale set up before hand.
-Just sayin'

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rsaunders

Tennessee has a similar law. Not clear that it is particularly effective. A quick ProQuest search finds nothing, but Tennessee is still near the bottom in HS graduation rate, ditto Georgia, which somebody above noted had a similar law: link

Neuronius

In some places, mining towns come to mind as an example, enough pressure has been put on business to only hire people with high school diplomas. Most kids in these situations drop out of school to work for the big bucks so taking away their potential job prospects is a good motivator to stay in school for two more years.

Andi

Raymond, here, here! There is a value to the institution itself, (it's where the administrators go to get their fat paychecks,)certainly not to the individual child forced into these public warehouses/prisons for at least six hours per day for twelve years.

How about giving the exit exam and diploma to any child who wants to take it? Just how many twelve and thirteen year old kids would suddenly be freed from the shackles of public education?

How about making education voluntary? How about throwing out bullies? How about paying teachers per student per actual daily attendance? The teacher could then turn around and pay students to attend his classes if he chose. Anything to increase the personal responsibility between teacher and students and overthrow the immoral, inept, cronyistic administration. Of course, I may be biased. I recently and briefly had a child enrolled in the San Bernardino Unified School District.

Read more...

misterwilliam

According to this Time article (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1181646-1,00.html)
Ontario isn't the only place that has this law Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia and West Virginia are suppose to have similar laws as well. (See page 6, paragraphs 1 & 2.)

mikealao

I don't see a problem with high school exit exams exacerbating the dropout problem since the kids that drop out for this reason really shouldn't hold a high-school diploma in the first place.

crabwalk

There's a Freakonomic problem with driver's license restrictions, though: Most states allow some form of homeschooling, often requiring little or not documentation as proof.

When Kentucky passed its dropout/license law, the result was a boom in the number of people calling themselves homeschooled. There's even a name for them in the homeschooling world: "homefoolers."

The result of all this is that, when driver's license proposals like these have been made, homeschoolers usually unite to oppose them because they believe homefoolers dilute the legitimacy of "real" homeschoolers. That's what happened here in Texas, for instance, where state law gives school systems no right to confirm a homeschooler is actually being taught anything.

speed

Crater High? Change the name.

Assuming 100 students and a $10,000 car, an awful lot of work is required to get a raffle ticket with a theoretical value of $100.

Raymond

Okay, but... Absent wierd, market bending pressure from government agencies, what is the actual value of finishing HS? We all know the average income figures, but that does not address individual cases.

Given that (1) the last two years of HS is make-work, and (2) 17-18 y/o males are especially unsuited to sitting in a room all day, and (3) the majority of K-12 teachers are incompetant, what is the actual value of forcing someone to stay there?

UMKevin

I realize the article was about the Canadian program but I can't believe the story about the car giveaway. Clearly no economists were consulted before they decided this was a good idea.

For one thing, there aren't a whole lot of dropouts who are deciding between a B average and 95% attendance and dropping out.

Also, any Freakonomics reader/econ geek can tell you that placing a weak punishment (not being in the car raffle)on a non-desired behavior more often than not encourages that behavior. Students see being taken out of the raffle, which as the commenter above noted they had a terrible chance of winning, as a very small "cost" of being a bad student. If not for the contest students would have been focused on the social norm of doing well in school as well as viewing the more important costs of not doing well like having limited future opportunities.

So not only does it not encourage dropout-minded kids to stay in school but it probably lowers performance and attendance in general for a large part of the student body.

Read more...

speed

Re 6: Raymond! Check your spelling.