ABCs to ATMs - The Case for Paying Students to Learn

Chapter 16: Challenges and Criticisms

Yes, we have heard quite a few concerns as we talk about this with people. It is a big shift and not one that will happen overnight.

Anticipated Criticisms and Counterarguments

This is a totally new frontier in education, and as with any groundbreaking shift, unexpected benefits and problems are bound to arise. From parents potentially misappropriating their children’s earnings to issues like student extortion and gambling, this system isn’t a panacea for all of society’s ills. However, its core aim is to significantly benefit the vast majority of students. As these students mature into future leaders, entrepreneurs, and community members, the ripple effects of this educational transformation have the potential to reshape not just individual lives, but entire communities and nations. 

1) Schools Are Not Allowed to Pay Students:

While it’s true that schools themselves cannot directly pay students, this model addresses that issue by having schools pay independent assessment centers for assessments. Students are then compensated based on the assessment center’s policy and their performance. Students are not guaranteed payment. They must perform.

2) This Will Hurt Private and Parochial Schools:

Contrary to this belief, the Outstanda system benefits all types of educational institutions. By promoting an environment where students actively engage in project-based learning, schools can leverage lower operating costs and better student engagement, making them more appealing to prospective students and their families.

3) Students Should Do It for the Love of Learning:  

While some students are intrinsically motivated, the reality is that many are not—especially as they become more tech-savvy and question the applicability of what they’re learning. The “love of learning” argument has been around for decades; if it were sufficient, we’d already see widespread student engagement.

4) Students Will Waste the Money or Use It for Bad Things:

While it’s possible some students might misuse funds, our early observations indicate a major shift in student behavior and attitudes toward learning in just a matter of weeks. The money serves as a tangible reward for their educational improvements, making them less likely to make poor decisions because they want to continue to perform well and be paid.

5) This is a Way to Give Money to the Poor:  

The system is designed to be equitable; all students are paid the same rate for their achievements, regardless of their economic background. While it does infuse money into poorer neighborhoods, the students earn this money through verified, proctored programs for the work they are doing.  This is not charity for the students. It is paying people for results.

6) Students Will Waste Money:

The savings plan is designed to balance immediate gratification with long-term financial planning, thereby teaching students money management skills from a young age. It also assures that parents will not access all the money a student earns since a portion is saved until they turn 18.

7) This Will Encourage People Not to Work:

One goal is indeed to encourage younger students to focus on their studies rather than take low-wage jobs. This, in turn, could pressure businesses to offer higher wages to adult workers. Over time, the amount a student can earn is significant, but not enough to offset the need to work as they get older.

8) Reducing Teachers and Administrators Will Result in Job Loss:  

While we do anticipate a reduction in staffing over time, this will likely be met through natural attrition. Moreover, the current shortage of qualified teachers suggests that remaining educators could command higher salaries and experience less stress on the job, reducing health costs and sick days.

9) Students Will Skip School More Because They Have Money to Spend:

Our surveys indicate the opposite: 100% of respondents stated their attendance and effort would significantly improve if they were financially incentivized. The experiment we ran in the summer of 2023 gave students the option to come or not come. One student skipped one class in order to play basketball with his friends. He later lamented to the school assistant director how much he regretted the decision because it impacted how much he made.

10) Schools Cannot Afford It:

The transition to this model will be gradual, starting with a few learning gigs per student and ramping up over time. This ensures that the program can grow in alignment with the school’s budget and resource availability.

11) Adding a Financial Component Puts More Pressure on Students:

Yes, the system does add a layer of financial pressure. However, the true pressure lies in the preparation and effort leading up to the assessments, not the assessments themselves. Students can retake the assessments until they pass. However, a teacher must renominate them for the next attempt each time, which is a hassle, and just coming in and being prepared the first time is far easier.

12) Parental Involvement Will Decrease: 

This model could actually increase parental involvement, as families would be more invested in their children’s academic success due to the financial incentives. The learning gig model also gives parents something tangible to see and celebrate more frequently.

13) It Reinforces Materialistic Values:

While there’s a financial component, the primary focus remains on education and personal development. The financial incentives are a means to an end, not the end itself. Besides this, the model reinforces the model they will be expected to follow when they enter the workforce. Do quality work and expect to be paid for it.

14) It Could Create an Unhealthy Competitive Environment:

Competition already exists in schools through grades and sports. This model aims to make that competition more constructive by tying it to educational milestones. And because students do not win at the expense of other students losing, it creates more collaboration with the group projects.

15) This Model Could Lead to a Narrow Focus on Testable Subjects: 

Outstanda’s system is designed to be comprehensive, covering a broad range of subjects and skills, including those that are not traditionally “testable,” thereby mitigating this concern. In cases such as art, the school’s validation of the projects being done carries more weight than the actual testing in the assessment center. The role of schools will be more important than ever, because the project work will be critical to student development.

16) It Ignores Emotional and Social Development: 

Actually, the model promotes emotional and social development through its focus on project-based learning, which requires teamwork, problem-solving, and effective communication. Teachers become more support and collaboration specialists and less behavior police. Students’ emotional and social development will benefit from this environment.

You are reading

Click Here to See Chapters
or Download the Full Book

This book is free.

If you like it, please consider
donating to our nonprofit here.

Need a speaker, or podcast guest,
or have a media request?

Ron McDaniel
Author of “ABCs to ATMs”
[email protected]