Publications & Resources

Monetary Incentives for Low-Stakes Tests

Apr 2004

Harold F. O'Neil, Jamal Abedi, Charlotte Lee, Judy Miyoshi, and Ann Mastergeorge

Recent information on international assessments (e.g., the Third International Mathematics and Science Study) indicates that 12th-grade students in the United States are doing extremely poorly on such assessments compared with their peers in other countries. These poor results are usually attributed to cognitive factors such as students’ opportunities to learn. However, a partial explanation of these results may be motivational. Because the low-stakes tests were administered in these 12th-graders’ final year in high school, this timing may have negatively affected motivation, and thus performance. Using money as an incentive ($10.00 per item correct), on a test using TIMSS released math items, we manipulated the amount of money per item correct so as to increase a motivational effect and thus increase performance. A focus group, pilot study, and main study were conducted. The monetary incentive was not effective in improving performance.

O’Neil, H. F., Abedi, J., Lee, C., Miyoshi, J., & Mastergeorge, A. (2004). Monetary incentives for lowstakes tests (CSE Report 625). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).