Roland Fryer and Joel Klein are back at it again, trying innovative approaches to help students in the New York City schools learn.
Fryer, who is a tenured professor at Harvard, a frequent co-author of mine, and Chief Equality Officer in the New York City school system, was the driving force behind a pilot program now ongoing in New York City that gives kids financial incentives for doing well in school.
Yesterday, the 2 of them rolled out a new program which will put special cell phones into the hands of select students. Rewarding good performance and behavior with cell phones and minutes is just a small part of the overall goal, however. Another part is using these cell phones to communicate with the kids. Teachers and students can text back and forth about homework assignments. Celebrities (or everyday success stories like graduates of the high school who have gone on to be doctors) can send positive messages over the network.
Perhaps most importantly, the hope is that linking school performance to access to the hottest new technology will make excelling in school cool, or at least less stigmatizing than it otherwise seems to be in many schools.
My prediction: it will not be long before a bunch of NYC high school students are emailing the Freakonomics blog to complain about our partial RSS feed.