Yesterday a dozen parents at Jefferson Elementary School in the Carr Square Neighborhood north of downtown St. Louis were rewarded with $300 to $600 in gift cards and feted with cake and fruit juice
for successfully participating in the program.
Collectively, their children had half the absences of other students at the school not enrolled in the program. The scheme had less success with curbing suspension rates, with students in the program being expelled for misbehavior nearly as much as other students.
So, does this count as a success?
Yes, according to Urban Strategies, the non-profit organization that's funding the social experiment and hopes to improve Jefferson Elementary's dismal academic record. Last year fewer than 15 percent of students at the school passed state reading and math tests.
Say what you will, at least the $600 that parent Felicia Lewis received yesterday is going to directly help her family. Two of her kids qualified for the award (a third child was suspended from school), and Lewis says she'll use the money to pay the gas bill and buy her kids Christmas presents. She says her home was burglarized last month with most the family's valuables stolen.
This is what it's come to: Parents getting $300 in Visa gift cards for ensuring that their children attend school and behave in the classroom.