When they're still in elementary school, students can still be nudged along by school pride and a desire to make their teacher proud. A few pep rallies, maybe a super-cool video on youtube, and they'll plunge bravely ahead just because their school wants them to.
But by middle school, aka the years in which tweens discover that everything in life sucks, students have figured it out. The BS Test is boring and stupid and doesn't actually matter and neither does stupid old Mrs. Ipswitch who is so absolutely not the boss of me. In other words, I think there's a reason that many schools report a dip in eighth grade BS Test scores, and I don't think it has anything to do with the actual quality of education.
Schools, however, depending on the state, need students to produce those scores. This is one of the huge problems of test-centered "accountability"-- it flips a school upside down, and instead of the school existing to provide students with an education, the students now exist to provide the school with good scores.
And what better way to formalize this new relationship then to really double down on treating the students like employees-- and pay them for their work.
Here's Mesa Alta Junior High School in New Mexico doing just that-- students who scored high on the PARCC for MAJ were paid $100 for their efforts on behalf of the school.
The local paper reported on this as if it was a heartwarming tale of general swellness, and not, say, a fairly blatant admission that the tests do not actually have any intrinsic value for students. And if you want to tell me that obviously these students are not being treated like school employees, well, then, there's only one other thing to call the $100 payment.
I don't offer you $100 to kiss your loved ones or feed your children or wash your hair in the morning or eat food. I don't do it because these things have intrinsic value; they matter on their own, and come with their own rewards packed inside. Bribes are for when we need to nudge someone to perform a task that has otherwise has no value to them.
Worse, if you bribe me to kiss my spouse, I may wonder why I'm not being paid to kiss my kids. If my focus is on external rewards, I may never even see the intrinsic rewards that crop up in my path daily.
This is where we are with the BS Tests. We've thrown up our hands and admitted there's no reason to try to do well on them unless someone offers you cold, hard cash. We've tried (and continue trying) to game the system with all sorts of test prep, so why not fall back on the oldest system gaming technique of all-- bribery. Other than, of course, having to face the Kafkaesque slow death of the soul that comes with realizing that we are perpetuating and feeding a system that serves nobody. Well, except for some middle school kids who get some extra spending money.