Filed Under:

How A Middle-School Principal Persuaded Students To Come To School

Play associated audio

Shawn Rux took over as principal of MS 53, a New York City middle school, last year. At the time, 50 or 60 kids were absent every day. You could understand why they stayed away: The school was chaos.

Twenty-two teachers had quit, the entire office staff had quit, and hundreds of kids had been suspended. The school was given a grade of F from the city's department of education.

"It was in a bad place," Rux says.

Rux decided he needed to create incentives for kids to come to school. Incentives that were more obvious to middle-school kids than, "If you come to school you'll be better off 20 years from now."

He handed out raffle tickets to anyone who showed up to school on time. One of the prizes was an Xbox. And he threw in an element of randomness: The first kids in line when the doors opened might get 20 tickets.

It worked. Kids started showing up early.

"It was ... like, 'Get out of my way, I'm trying to get into school,' " Rux says. "It was nice."

Rux also created his own currency. He called it Rux Bux. Teachers hand them out when kids are well behaved. They can be traded in for school supplies, or special lunches. A sixth-grader named Wander Rodriguez is trying to save up 5,000 Rux Bux — enough for a personal shopping spree with Rux.

The principal also stands outside school every morning, greeting the students as they show up. This recognition is another, subtler incentive to come to school.

"I like this school," Wander Rodriguez says. "They treat me like home, they treat me nice, they always give me stuff. ... They always say 'hi' in the mornings."

The school went from an F to a C. Daily attendance went up to over 90 percent. Then the hurricane hit.

The school is in Far Rockaway, Queens — one of the areas hardest hit by the storm. Some kids' homes were destroyed. One student who stayed at home through the storm told a teacher, "My apartment complex was in the middle of the ocean." Rux's car was destroyed. The first floor of his house was flooded.

After the storm, after school started up again, Rux's goal was to get attendance back to 90 percent. Every day, his staff texts him the attendance numbers. The day I visited last week, 89.2 percent of students attended school. Close, but not close enough for Rux.

The storm has been tough on everyone, he says. But that's no excuse. Kids have to be in school.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Lisa Lucas Takes The Reins At The National Book Foundation

Lucas is the third executive director in the history of the foundation, which runs the National Book Awards. Her priority? Inclusivity: "Everyone is either a reader or a potential reader," she says.
NPR

The Shocking Truth About America's Ethanol Law: It Doesn't Matter (For Now)

Ted Cruz doesn't like the law that requires the use of ethanol in gasoline. So what would happen if it was abolished? The surprising answer: not much, probably.
WAMU 88.5

The Latest on the Military, Political and Humanitarian Crises in Syria

Russia continues airstrikes in Syria. Secretary Kerry meets with world leaders in an attempt to resolve the country’s five-year civil war. A panel joins Diane to discuss the latest on the military, political and humanitarian crises facing Syria.

NPR

Twitter Tries A New Kind Of Timeline By Predicting What May Interest You

Twitter has struggled to attract new users. Its latest effort at rejuvenation is a new kind of timeline that predicts which older posts you might not want to miss and displays them on top.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.