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Editorial: Rewarding kids does good

Published 9:20am Thursday, February 13, 2014

One of the basic teachings of behavioral science is that of positive reinforcement, that by rewarding good deeds, further good deeds are likely to follow.

Public education follows this philosophy, for the most part. Students who perform well academically are rewarded with high grades and accolades such as a place on the school’s honor roll.

No doubt, such accomplishments matter when it comes time for students to apply for higher education. However, the payoff is delayed and intangible.

It’s for this reason why we feel that Dowagiac Union High School’s Youth Experiencing Success program is something worth supporting.

The YES program, which is organized by Doug Pearson, the school’s student advocate, rewards the school’s underclassmen for their great performance, both on the report card and in the classroom. However, rather than just giving them a certificate and handshake, Pearson gives out prizes like coupons or pizza parties.

It’s not a lot, but it’s an immediate, physical reward for their accomplishments.

By focusing on freshman and sophomores in particular, the high school is also addressing the group of students most likely to fall through the cracks. As nearly anyone would attest to, the transition from middle school to high school is quite jarring for students. The increased class sizes, workload and expectations can be overwhelming to kids who are unprepared for it.

Rewarding these at-risk students is a smart idea, though time will tell whether or not the program will play a major role in improving their academic performance.

Partnering with businesses is another aspect of the YES program worth praising. In addition to providing a solution for potential prizes, it also sends a positive message to students. It’s not just parents and teachers who are invested in their futures, but the greater community as well.

We look forward to what Pearson and the school comes up with next.


Opinions expressed are those of the editorial board consisting of Publisher Michael Caldwell and editors Craig Haupert, Ambrosia Neldon, Ted Yoakum and Scott Novak.

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