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What's all this outrage for North Carolina school principal, Susie Shepherd, for supporting her parent advisory council's innovative use of marketing incentives? Who are we kidding? I used to teach, so I know how some schools operate like they're in the third world, without proper books and resources. This school was just looking for creative ways to raise much-needed money.

In my opinion, the outpouring of disdain is hypocritical. The days of doing well in school for the intrinsic value are waning, as more parents offer reward systems. Read Barbara Coloroso. The kindergarten sticker turns into a car at 16 - IF you get good grades.
Sure, it's disappointing, and certainly not the ideal way to raise and educate children, but the real world is comprised of all kinds of incentives - discount coupons, loyalty programs, work bonuses, gifts, prizes... Many nonprofits engage kids in fundraising events by offering prizes. i.e. MS Readathon. Open a box of cereal and get a prize. Collect enough bottle cap liners and win something big. Kids are exposed to this type of promotion every single day as soon as they can understand what it's all about.
Are kids immune to being motivated by a few points on a test? Gosh, NO. It'll likely mean increased revenue for the school. Are the extra points going to make a big difference? Likely not. Teachers aren't stupid. This was purely a marketing incentive for a fundraising project.
"Shepherd rejected the suggestion that the school is selling grades. Extra points on two tests won't make a difference in a student's final grade, she said."
Notice the other incentive prizes that have nothing to do with grades.
Rosewood Middle School price list:

  • A $20 donation buys 10-point credits to be used on two tests of the student's choice.

  • A $30 donation buys the test points and admission to a 5th-period dance.

  • A $60 donation buys students test points, the dance invitation, and a "special 30-minute lunch period with pizza, drink and the choice to invite one friend to join them."

  • Photo ops with Rosewood principal Susie Shepherd, the vice principal, and a home room teacher go for $75. The photos will be posted on a school bulletin board and on the school's Web site.

Teaching was my first marketing job. Try exciting junior high students for mandatory string instrument classes. Need I say more?
If Susie Shepherd is a good principal with a good work history, she should be able to keep her job. What do you say?

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Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of Solutions Marketing & Consulting LLC, and a marketing and branding thought leader, speaker, writer, and MarketingProfs contributor. She is the author of the Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most for Small Business Success.

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Twitter: @Elaine_Fogel