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Missouri 15-Year-Old Wins Kia for Attending School

December 23, 2016

One of my concerns about this atmosphere of test-centered reform is the pressure on teachers and administrators to discover that effective cocktail of external motivators to prompt students to attend school, pass their classes, and pass their exams.

It bothers me when my students ask what they will “get” from me for their being kind to a classmate or for going above and beyond on a classroom task.

I respond, “You get the satisfaction of knowing you have done well or have helped another person.”

To this, my students often offer some expression of dissatisfaction. Intrinsic rewards are for losers. If you can’t spend it, eat it, play with it, wear it, or otherwise have hands-on fun with it, then there is no reason to be responsible, kind, or excellent.

I do not think it benefits our society to groom a generation dependent upon external rewards above the internal.

Thus, the following news story from Springfield, Missouri, troubles me. As noted on in May 2016:

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.–One lucky Springfield high school student drove away with a new car Wednesday Night.

15-year-old Cameron Hausley was awarded a 2016 Kia soul from Youngblood Kia today for having exceptional attendance.

Each Springfield high school selected five students with 95 percent attendance or better for the drawing.

Congratulations to  Cameron for winning.

(Apparently Kia has been holding its attendance contest for years. Here is the 2015 Kia winner. And Chevy gave away a car in 2010in 2015, and in 2016. There might be more giveaways; I stopped searching.)

As it turns out, Missouri law requires that schools in session for five days a week have “a minimum term of at least one hundred seventy-four days for schools with a five-day school week or one hundred forty-two days for schools with a four-day school week, and one thousand forty-four hours of actual pupil attendance” (Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 171, “School Operations). Furthermore, Springfield Public Schools limits unexcused absences to 8 days per school year:

For purposes of the Missouri compulsory attendance law, the term “attend..on a regular basis” shall mean that the student has not been absent from school without a satisfactory excuse or truant from school more than eight (8) school days or partial school days during the school year.

In 2015-16, Springfield Public Schools had a 172-day calendar.

Thus, the “excellent attendance” qualifying students for the Kia drawing involved kids’ attending school “95 percent [of the school year] or better,” which happens to be at least 164 out of 172 days, and which allows students maxing out their allowable absences to be counted as having “excellent attendance.”

Each Springfield high school could only submit 5 students to participate in the drawing, which means each school could have set additional criteria, or it could have simply conducted its own preliminary drawing to enter the final drawing. The articles does not expound on this issue, and I did not pursue it further.

As far as Kia is concerned, the criterion of merely following the expected district attendance policy is the high bar for a 15-year-old to qualify for this new-car prize.

Given that 15-year-olds in Missouri cannot operate an automobile without a parent/guardian “or a qualified driver at least 25 years old with at least 3 years of fully licensed driving experience who has been designated by your parent/guardian,” Kia is basically giving a car to the student’s parents for the student having attended school without having unexcused absences in excess of that which is required by Missouri state law as specified in district policy.

(Some of the winners of the other Kia/Chevy contests were older; those 18 years old could be fully licensed in Missouri and could therefore drive a car without a parent or other licensed driver present.)

I do not know Cameron Hausley, the young man who won the Kia in 2016. He might be an excellent student, one who takes pride in his accomplishments for the joy of a job well done. He might be a thoughtful and kind young man, one who finds satisfaction in helping others simply for the sake of doing so.

Still, giving cars to high school students for showing up for school– which is what students are supposed to do– reinforces a damaging idea that acquiring material possessions should be the ultimate motivator.



Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    A version of pay for performance with a very low bar……showing up.

  2. When my students ask me if they get credit for whatever I’ve asked them to do, I tell them, “You get credit in my heart.”

    They grumble, laugh and then comply. My students are much better kids than I ever was!

    Yes, education policy run by businessmen and politicians is abysmal. Almost always uninformed and wrong! Educators have known for more than a century that external rewards undermine intrinsic motivation to learn.

  3. First, Mercedes, thank you for your blog. Clearly, you are not getting external rewards for this effort. However, there are ever so many people who appreciate your work. We should thank you more than we do, however teachers know that one in a hundred is the norm, and that one makes our year, makes our career.

    The rewarding of students with material goods is disgusting. It is, however, consistent with our warped and rapidly declining society that now values teachers less than salesmen and stockbrokers. I would say that we are ‘gliding down, sliding down’, however the ride has recently become pretty bumpy and is probably going to get even rougher for a long while.

    Thank you, however, for your rear guard action. Perhaps you can help turn the tide, but (as you know) that tide is a pretty big thing to turn.

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