Strengthening Incentives for Student Effort and Learning: Michigan’s Merit Award Program?
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[Excerpt] One of the primary reasons American students learn a good deal less during secondary school than students in other industrialized nations is that they devote less time and intellectual energy to the task.1 Accountability systems designed to get teachers to try harder and set higher standards will not produce more student learning if [as one high school teacher put it] “students are sitting back in their desks, arms crossed, waiting for their teachers to make them smart (Zoch, 1998, p. 70).” Learning is not a passive act; it requires the time and active involvement of the learner. In a classroom with 1 teacher and 25 students, there are 25 learning hours spent for every hour of teaching time. Learning takes work and that work is generally not going to be as much fun as hanging out with friends or watching TV. If students cannot be motivated to give up some time socializing or watching TV so that they can learn difficult material and develop high level skills, the time and talents of teachers will be wasted.