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Study: Students perform better on tests when offered incentives

Students attending low-performing schools tend to perform better on tests when promised financial or non-financial incentives for good scores, according to a study conducted by Freakonomics’ Steven D. Levitt, John A. List, Susanne Neckermann and Sally Sadoff, the Huffington Post reports. Between January 2009 and January 2011, the researchers conducted randomized field experiments among 6,500 elementary and high school students in three low-performing school districts in and around Chicago. The three settings differed in terms of size, age of the students and subject being tested. Low financial incentives of $10 — offered for an improvement in test scores and announced immediately before the test — elicited effort in only one setting, whereas high financial incentives of $20 worked well in two out of the three settings. Additionally, findings suggest that older students respond more to monetary incentives, while non-monetary incentives — such as trophies — are as effective as financial incentives among younger students. Rewards that were promised to students one month after the test, rather than immediately following the test, had no motivating power…

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