Make America Great Again by Creating a Workplace Environment in the Elementary School Classroom

Elementary School ClassroomThe elementary classroom environment is vital for learning and success for every student. An ideal classroom is filled with students eager to learn and work at their student job, while asking questions, actively participating and cooperating with others. It is safe place that students look forward to being a part of everyday.

Changing education by changing the classroom environment into a thriving job oriented workplace is the key to improving the success of students and teachers. It is not only important to reward students for their job efforts, but to allow them to make their own choices in what they can do with their job earnings. This is done by setting up a banking and shopping day at the end of the week. This type of autonomous environment empowers students and motivates them to work at their school job as a student. This is the work ethic that we need students to foster so that they will transfer it into adulthood as an employee. Creating a workplace within the classroom with jobs and responsibilities that are rewarded with play money is an inexpensive way to establish a classroom community of workers. These jobs are taken seriously by the employer and employees. A job application and interview process is implemented by the teacher. The teacher also hires room managers to help him/her enforce jobs and solve workplace problems.

Some opponents of a reward based classroom may say that this is bribing students to achieve; however, this is the free-market competitive system in which we live today and which motivates workers to contribute to society. Based on the research of Roland Fryer Jr., Professor of Economics, Harvard University, Fryer runs an education innovation laboratory with an annual budget of $6 million. His goal is to “bridge the gap between America’s white and minority kids by the year 2025.”

He has conducted hundreds of classroom experiments, using 18,000 kids in New York, Dallas Chicago and Washington to test the effects of monetary incentives. He actually paid students cash for good test scores and not fighting. His results showed that the monetary incentives had no effect on city school students. However, in other cities the results were promising. “Kids who got paid all year under a very elegant scheme performed significantly better on their standardized reading tests at the end of the year. Statistically speaking it was as if those kids had spent three extra months in school, compared with their peers who did not get paid.” Brian Jacob, University of Michigan public policy and economic professor was asked to review Fryer’s research, and concluded, “If incentives are designed wisely, it appears, payments can indeed boost kids’ performance as much as or more than many other reforms you’ve heard about before-and for a fraction of the cost.” Fryer would not give up on the city school; he grew up in that environment and has become passionate to help. He was faced with a mixed welcome from schools. Some desperate for help, would try anything, others continued to remain on the platform that kids should be motivated for “the love of learning”. His pioneering research received much attention from the press, fueled by anger from the local citizens. Fryer said that this attention is exactly what R&D education needs. He agrees that children should “learn for the love of learning, but they’re not. So what shall we do? He makes a profound statement which bridges the ideology adults have for their children in the education system: “Most adults work primarily for money, and in a curious way, we seem to be holding kids to a higher standard than we hold ourselves.” In Dallas schools, kids were paid to read books; the experiment had a positive effect on grades. Unlike the Chicago study which paid kids for only good grades. It seems a greater effect was seen by paying for reading because it has a positive impact on all areas of learning. There was also a positive outcome in class attendance. More students came to class knowing that they would be getting paid for their reading job. They found that in Dallas, where the youngest children participated in the experiment, they found the most positive effect “making them more receptive to reforms.” In Washington, the kids with ‘serious behavior problems saw the biggest gains in test scores overall. Their reading scores shot up 0.l4 standard deviations, which is roughly the equivalent of five additional months of schooling.” Some may agree with Fryers statement: “The key may be to teach kids to control more overall to encourage them to act as if they can indeed control everything, and reward that effort above and beyond the actual outcome.” The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) is one of the most successful charter network programs in the country and has been giving monetary incentives of 15 years using a model that is aligned with Fryer’s research. They reward students for “getting to school on time, participating in class and having a positive attitude.” They may spend their money at a school store for school supplies. They have found over the years that an important factor for success in their program is immediate recognition. Therefore, programs are needed which pay their kids immediately for positive behavior and for a job well done. From a behavior modification standpoint this is imperative for positive results.

In light of this cover article in TIME magazine, April 19, 2010, We should be even more encouraged by the projected success to educate school children by changing the classroom environment into a workplace, with temporary and full-time jobs that are paid weekly salaries, as well as immediate monetary rewards for academic jobs and behavioral successes throughout the school day. A classroom behavior management tool is needed which targets the use of monetary rewards continually all day within the classroom environment, as well as weekly paychecks to insure immediate positive reinforcement of behavior and performance. A program that uses play money is more cost effective and realistic than cash and can also be individualized for each teacher based on their classroom theme. Since play money is used and not real cash the cost of the program is dramatically less. The classroom store is very important because it provides the incentive to earn money to shop. Merchandise is purchased by the school or teacher or through parental or retail donations. Local communities may be willing to contribute to these classroom stores willingly if they understood the positive effects of the program, which defers the cost from the teacher and school district. Student entrepreneurs are quickly motivated to create items for their own business in order to make more money. Students learn quickly the value of opening their own store, not only can they earn more money for themselves, they can help others by creating employment in their store and also offer more choices in the free marketplace. The classroom is buzzing with business and incentives to produce and create and work at a job that is fun. Implementation of a classroom and behavior management program, that promotes significant performance results for student learning, behavior and acquired life skills is not only needed in American education, but more importantly attainable. Promoting a job environment that fosters workplace competition, self-motivation, team work and cooperation will prepare the children of today to be the responsible adult of the future motivated to work at a job, so that America will be great again!

This program will transform the classroom into workplace and job environment, whereby, students and teacher are motivated to make their class thrive so that everyone succeeds. This program is designed by an elementary school teacher with a Masters in Public Health in the area of Health Promotion. This graduate degree focused on changing health behaviors in adults and children, and influenced the author in changing school children’s behavior. A teacher is constantly promoting positive behaviors for learning. Many times because of the class size and individuality of each student, this task is very difficult. However, This program integrates behavioral reinforcement into every aspect of the learning environment, unlike any other organizational program. I believe that this program could reform and revolutionize the educational system as we know it today because it is unique and comprehensive. It can develop children into viable and successful students and adults who possess a work ethic to acquire and maintain employment. It has been successfully implemented into upper elementary classrooms. However, it is applicable and modifiable for lower elementary and middle school. I have implemented this program with great success for years as an elementary teacher. Bringing the fun into learning while achieving goals and success among teachers and students is the transformation our education needs empower the future our youth and what they have to offer society. Go to http://www.Teacherspayteachers.com and search Classroom Community by Promote Peace for an introductory offer of a comprehensive teaching manual with many printables.