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Report cards due: Do good grades mean good money?
Many parents reward kids for efforts
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For some students, good grades are like money in the bank, literally.

Report cards are headed home in the next week or so for Gainesville and Hall County students, and in some households, that means i time for parents to back up their side of the bargain and pay up for As and Bs.

And there is, of course, the flip side of that: Poor or below-average grades could mean no cash or a loss of privileges.

"A reward is just a special bonus for a good job done and what person, child or adult, doesn’t like a reward for a job well done," said parent Pamela Graham, who has two children in the Hall County school system.

She said that her children receive $5 for every A they receive.

"We have chosen to do money," she added. "This is just what stuck with the oldest and seemed to work for all our children."

Giving rewards for good grades is a debate that rages in many a household, with some parents seeing no need for such incentives. Others choose different routes, such as handing out rewards throughout the year.

Kurt Hansen, who has a child at Spout Springs Elementary School and a child at Davis Middle School in South Hall, said there is no "formal system" in his home to reward for good grades.

"We try to stress the importance of doing your best at all that you do, including schoolwork," he said. "We are very much on top of how our two kids that are in school are doing and celebrate successes along the way, (such as) going out for a special dinner."

Also, though, "we want our kids ... to love the process of learning as opposed to being too focused on learning for the sake of getting a grade," Hansen added.

"It is a tough balance, but it seems to be working so far."

Merrianne Dyer, principal at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School in Gainesville, said her school uses a 1-through-3 grading system to show whether students are meeting, exceeding or slipping below academic standards.

But she encourages parents, for the sake of considering rewards, to look at the "Tiger Traits" section of the report card. The school’s mascot is a tiger.

In that section, parents will find the teacher’s assessment of how hard the students are working in such areas as communicating and working with others and trying new ways of doing things, as well as whether they show "interest in the world, ask questions and actively enjoy learning."

A student might not score highly on quarterly assessments that determine the report card grade, but "they can be working as hard as they can and doing all that they are supposed to," Dyer said.

She believes any financial incentives for good grades should be "accompanied by steady encouragement and praise."

Shirley Whitaker, an assistant superintendent in the Gainesville school system and a former, longtime principal for the district, said she believes "students should be encouraged to always do their best work and be encouraged when they improve."

The satisfaction of earning good grades "is lasting, while ‘being rewarded’ only lasts for a short while," she added.

David Moody, director of elementary education for Hall County schools, said he believes every child is motivated differently.

"For some children, grades are not motivators as much as the content and its ability to be connected to their interests," he said.

"As an educator and a parent, I would hope the line of communication between teacher and parent would stay wide open to help identify the best motivator for each child."

Debra Smith, principal at Riverbend Elementary School in North Hall, noted that regardless of how parents fall on the issue, rewards for good grades are widespread in society.

Businesses provide coupons and incentives ("bring in a report card with all As and receive a free ...").

Schools recognize the brightest students with honor rolls and other rewards.

"It’s a proper balance," she said. "We want them to be making good grades. At the same time, there are a lot of things you do in life that you don’t get paid for."

Smith also pointed out that parents already are buying a lot of things for their children, from cell phones to video games.

"Why not tie them to academic success when you can?" she said.

Today’s grade reporting system is much different than a generation ago, when a parent’s first hint of academic trouble often came when opening the report card.

Now schools send home "progress reports," parents and teachers communicate by e-mail, and parents can track grades and attendance online.

The report card, in other words, should be no great surprise.

"When their grades come home to us, we already have a good idea of their scores," said Sharon Strickland, who has a sixth-grader at East Hall Middle School and first-grader at Lula Elementary School.

Still, "we will give the boys incentives to work for," she said. "If offering a little something extra makes the child try harder, then there is nothing wrong with that.

"Most of all, you just have to support them, encourage them, and realize that they are different, and give them a lot of praise and love."