Children are earning their bikes this year
In 2008, we gave 85% of our bicycles to at-risk children who entered into Contracts with their Teachers. The contracts reward academic improvement, behavioral change, on-time attendance and participation in education-enhancing activities like tutoring classes and Saturday school. Here's how the Incentive Contracts work:
- The Teacher asks: “Who wants a bicycle for Christmas?”
- Children who want bikes raise their hands
- The Teacher says “Here’s what you need to do to get one,” and customizes a Contract with specific goals for each child
- The Student and his/her Parent sign the Contract
- The Student performs on the Contract and (if successful) earns a new bicycle from Elves & More.
The bottom line is that to earn a bike each Student takes a positive step toward a better education.
Imagine that: children start improving even before they get their bikes!
What exactly are the Contracts?
Teachers have a great deal of flexibility in customizing the Contracts to fit each child’s circumstances.
For many Students, the Contract calls for a modest improvement in grades or scores. For a good Student, the improvement might be to raise the score 2 points, from 88 points to 90, from a B+ to an A-. For a poor-performing Student, the Contract might require the child to raise his/her score from 40 points to 45 or 50 points, still an “F” in the class, but a huge improvement for that individual Student.
For some Students, the Contract calls for better attendance or on-time arrival to class. Some contracts call for better behavior during class. Others call for participation in Saturday school or tutoring classes.
Each Teacher and Student must come to a mutually agreed-upon goal, and the Teacher is the sole judge of whether the goal is adequate for the child and, upon completion, whether the goal has been met (or not).
Why did we adopt this approach?
Since our beginning, we resisted attempts to make children “earn” their bikes. Most such programs reward “Honors Students,” and few others. We believed that while Honors Students should be revered, they are not the ones at greatest risk; to the contrary, we believe the children at greatest risk are those with the lowest scores, the most troublesome behavioral problems and the worst attendance.
Yet, with this new Contract approach, Teachers can help both the A student and the F student, by tailoring the goals to each child’s needs. Every child has a chance to earn a bicycle, and we expect nearly all who sign up will end up with a bike. It just takes a little effort, but not so much as to make the prize unobtainable.
Early results are very favorable, with entire schools signing up 85-95 percent of their students, and a few attaining 100 percent participation! Clearly the children want bikes and are willing to work to get them.
The Principals and Teachers are delighted to have bicycles as a powerful tool to get children to do what they need to do to further their education. One school Board member told us “It’s amazing what a simple bike can do!” Our Donors are excited to know that even before the children receive their bicycles they are already taking positive steps toward their education.
We believe that the behaviors learned and habits formed during the Contract period will not end there; we are optimistic that they will carry over to future years, as well.
And, as we’ve learned in the past, we know that once the children get their bicycles they will use them as the basic transportation they need to get involved in Mentored activities such as sports, scouting and community center programs. It is in these programs that the promise of bicycles will be fully fulfilled, as adult mentors begin guiding the lives of the children in the right ways, helping them stay in school and out of trouble.