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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)