It’s no surprise that teachers and school leaders are “on the hook” for raising student outcomes, vis-à-vis standardized tests. But, what if there was a more effective and reasonable incentive for increasing student outcomes? What if the federal government used State Farm’s Good Student Discount as a model to offer parents and guardians a tax break, when their child performs well on standardized tests? The criteria for qualifying for State Farm’s Good Student Discount includes the following:
All assigned drivers under 25 who are full-time students in high school or at a college or university, and the scholastic records for the immediately preceding school semester show that this student meets at least one of the following:
- Ranked scholastically in the upper 20% of his or her class
- Had a grade average of B or higher
- Had a grade point average of 3.0 (out of 4.0) or higher
- Made the Dean’s List or Honor Roll
Why should State Farm’s Good Student Discount serve as a model for the federal government and the education policy domain? Well, because research is quite clear that a student’s performance on standardized tests is strongly correlated to out-of-school reading habits. In other words, reading for fun, daily, matters a great deal! So much so, education policy experts and wonks should consider adopting a similar “good student discount” for parents and guardians of school-aged children. Specifically, one that encourages reading at home, as a daily routine.
Research shows that “students who read for fun nearly every day performed better on reading tests than those who reported reading never or hardly at all.” Researchers compiled data from twenty-seven countries and found that “the presence of book-lined shelves in the home — and the intellectual environment those volumes reflect — gives children an enormous advantage in school.” Why would this be? Well, according to research, the “amount of free reading done outside of school has consistently been found to relate to growth in vocabulary, reading comprehension, verbal fluency, and general information.” Furthermore, students who “read independently become better readers, score higher on achievement tests in all subject areas, and have greater content knowledge than those who do not.” According to this study, “reading for pleasure was linked to greater intellectual progress, both in vocabulary, spelling and mathematics. In fact, the impact was around four times greater than that of having a parent with a post-secondary degree.”
Of all the shiniest school-based reading programs and strategies, researchers found that “home library size has a very substantial effect on educational attainment, even adjusting for parents’ education, father’s occupational status and other family background characteristics.” Yes, size does matter! According to the same report, “growing up in a home with 500 books would propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average, than would growing up in a similar home with few or no books.” The good news for parents and guardians is that “mom and dad don’t have to be scholars themselves; they just have to read and respect books, and pass that love of reading down to their children.” Which is why I’m arguing for a similar incentives model within education policy, as well. When parents and guardians pass down a love of reading to their children, and, subsequently, their children perform well on standardized exams, i.e. they meet or exceed their respective grade-level benchmarks and milestones, then perhaps these parents and guardians do deserve a tax break or discount too.