Harvard Education Letter highlights Dana Center's Academic Youth Development program

Posted on May 8, 2009

Nationwide, more and more school districts are experimenting with using cash to motivate students to attend school, wear uniforms, complete homework, and earn good grades.

This trend is the subject of David McKay Wilson's article "Money and Motivation: New initiatives rekindle debate over the link between rewards and student achievement," which appeared in the March/April 2009 Harvard Education Letter (abstract).

Using cash to motivate students is predictably controversial, with many education scholars contending that relying on motivation from an external source has only short-term effects.

These critics argue that helping students find intrinsic sources of motivation can have more lasting positive effects on student achievement. Wilson discusses the success of one strategy aimed at motivating students intrinsically—the "growth mind-set" model developed by Dr. Carol Dweck at Stanford University.

Dweck’s work informs the Dana Center's Academic Youth Development program. In a related Harvard Education Publishing Group blog entry dated March 19, Wilson describes AYD—and its focus on effective effort—in more detail. His post concludes

The [AYD] students also become part of collaborative learning communities, in which they become comfortable working in teams and sharing strategies to attack thorny math problems.
"Our early results are promising," [Laura] Cooper [assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Evanston, Ill.] notes. "Our 14-year-olds, who have failed in the past and thought their academic careers were over, have realized that they can learn, and that 14 isn't too late to start learning."

The Dana Center's work in Academic Youth Development (AYD) is the product of many people's hard work and commitment to bettering the lives of children. The program strategy is a natural evolution of Uri Treisman's work to foster high achievement in math for African American and Latino college students. It builds as well on the Chicago Public Schools' Step Up to High School program. The current version of AYD is the product of a collaboration of teachers and administrators in Evanston Township High School, the Dana Center, and the creative team of Agile Mind (our commercial collaborator).