An eastern Iowa school is trying a new tactic to get students motivated about their grades. Maquoketa Valley High School in Delhi has implemented an academic incentive program called “The G.P.A. Challenge.” Teacher Dan Cassutt introduced the idea after hearing about a similar program at a California school. Cassutt says the students were divided into 12 teams of 18 students, each with two seniors — and a teacher as an advisor.
Each team chose a team name, a motto and a team color for their t-shirts and they meet every two-and-a-half weeks with the agenda set by the team captains. Cassutt says most of the students like the concept and it’s hoped the positive attitudes will be reflected in improved academics.
“While the team captains have created a team-building activity, teachers have split the team of 18 into two groups of nine and they’re meeting with those students to take a look at their grades and assist those students in any way possible,” he explains. The grade point averages of the students on each team factor into an overall team G.P.A. that will be compared to other teams at the end of each semester.
Cassutt says winning teams will be awarded incentives each quarter. Prizes include gift cards from Best Buy and Walmart, trips to the local Pizza Ranch and bowling during the school day, or a trip to Dubuque for lunch and a matinee movie. There are other trips offer, too, to Adventureland in Des Moines and to Coralridge Mall in Coralville for ice skating and a movie. Cassutt says the challenge is off to a good start since it kicked off just over a month ago.
“Ultimately, we want to change a few attitudes,” Cassutt says. “We’re not naive enough to believe that we’re going to get all the students but we’re going to get some and it’s going to help them improve academically in the long run.” While funding is always an issue, the school board and administration, as well as several area businesses, are financially-supporting the academic program.
By Janelle Tucker, KMCH, Manchester