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Westland schools expand cash for grades program

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  A successful program that rewards students with cash for boosting their grades has expanded to a second high school in Westland, Michigan. Bill Gray, a retired school psychologist with Wayne Memorial High School, started the Champions of Wayne program in 2009 with the goal of improving performance of at-risk students.

The program offers mentorship and a $200 reward each semester to each students who successfully increase their grade point averages. 

Although parenting and education experts have traditionally discouraged cash incentives for grades, Gray says the results have been stellar, with improvements not only in grades, but overall school test scores.

"The cash incentive is the hook. It gives the program the street credibility to get the at-risk kids involved," Gray says. The real benefit of the program is the mentorship offered alongside the contract to improve grades.

Some outcomes from the Champions of Wayne program noted by Gray include two students who have gone on to Harvard and two who have become Gates Millennium Scholars. Wayne also surpassed John Glenn High School in ACT scores, after many years lagging behind the other school.

A more intangible benefit, according to Gray, is a change in the culture at the school. "At one time, poor grades was almost socially acceptable. Now the norm is really where kids are excited about the report cards, they're anxious to show them to people," says Gray.

John Glenn's Champions programs has been launched with funding from the local community. In addition to cash for grades, Champions of John Glenn will include an opportunity to qualify for a one-year college scholarship.

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