The Algebra Project and student incentive pay
Thanks to Jay Gillen and everyone who commented on my post about the Algebra Project protest in Annapolis this week. In a comment last night, Jay talked about the Algebra Project's primary role as an after-school student tutoring organization. He said that "students, mostly low-income, have earned more than $1 million over the past six years teaching math." And he talked about a plan "that would lower teacher-learner ratios by employing thousands of older peers in all subjects to help younger peers learn."
A couple times in the past few weeks, I've heard Dr. Alonso say that he got the idea for his controversial student incentive package not from the reform already underway in New York City, but from a meeting he had last summer with Algebra Project members. The $700,000 that Alonso has designated to pay students for peer tutoring is directly based on the Algebra Project model. The $1 million he's using to offer incentive money to the 5,000 students who have already failed one or more of the High School Assessments takes a different structure, but it has the same premise: that money, even a small amount, may make it possible for low-income students to stay after school (or come in on a Saturday) for extra tutoring.
The money that students earn in the Algebra Project in some cases prevents them from having to spend their time working in dead-end jobs. In some cases, it probably prevents students from getting into trouble after school, either because they don't have anything better to do or because they're desperate for cash and selling drugs seems to be the easiest option. It shows young people that there are opportunities for them to be paid using their minds.
Because the Algebra Project was supposedly the inspriation for the school system incentives, I found it curious that at least a couple students out protesting Wednesday cited opposition to the incentives as the reason they were there. (I'm guessing these were not the group's core members, who are focused on their mission to secure more school funding.)
I'd love to hear from the Algebra Project students directly on this one: Is the school system's incentive package in keeping with the reforms you advocate? And how does student pay factor into the larger picture of school reform?