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Bribing students: Another ‘magical solution’ that doesn’t work


The Goethe poem “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” made into the classic Disney film “Fantasia,” tells the story of an apprentice who is tired of doing the hard work of constantly carrying water into the house, says Larry Ferlazzo, who teaches English and Social Studies at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, California, for the Washington Post. When the sorcerer is away, the apprentice decides to take the easy way out and use magic he doesn’t fully understand to make a broom fetch buckets of water. The spell works at first, but ends up making things far worse when he can’t make the broom stop and the house becomes flooded. This use of “magical solutions” that end up making things worse is a hallmark of many school reform efforts — value-added measurement teacher evaluation, the parent trigger, and merit pay proposals are just a few that come to mind. A Cincinnati high school’s recent program to pay students to attend class and to follow school rules is another example. It’s the latest in a series of unfortunate efforts to use bribery to force students to learn…

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