Bookmark and Share

High School Principals Oppose Paying Students for Good Grades

Results of Exclusive Principal Poll Announced at Union Pacific-Sponsored Professional Development Conference

Palm Desert, Calif., July 16, 2008 – Students should not be paid as incentive for earning good grades or higher test scores, according to a recent poll of public high school principals. Nearly 450 principals representing 21 states responded to a poll conducted by The Principals' Partnership, a program created by the Union Pacific Foundation to support public high school principals in communities served by the nation's largest railroad.

Principals enrolled in The Principals' Partnership were asked the open-ended question: "Do you think students should be paid for earning good grades or higher test scores?"

More than 82 percent of the 438 respondents opposed that idea, while 14.8 percent supported it and 2.5 percent were undecided. Principals were also asked to explain their responses, which were coded and grouped into categories:

  • Most principals felt that students should be naturally motivated to succeed in school, and that a monetary reward would not help students develop the necessary motivation for success in higher education or in the workplace.
  • Some principals felt that earning scholarships and admission to their college of choice should serve as motivation.
  • Many respondents felt that whether to pay students for good grades was a decision best left to each individual family and was not the role of the school.

While the majority of principals did not support the idea of paying students for good grades or higher test scores, many respondents recognized the important role incentives play in motivating students to do well in school. Frequently mentioned incentives included additional school privileges such as reserved parking, admission to extra-curricular events, recognition banquets and modest gifts, such as T-shirts or gift cards donated by local merchants.

Principals who supported paying students for good grades often were concerned that many young people, particularly in high poverty settings, must work to support their families. A monetary reward was seen as a way to allow students to focus on success in school and compensate for wages lost because of time devoted to school assignments.

A complete 2008 Principals' Partnership Poll summary is available at

Many of the poll respondents are attending The Principals' Partnership 2008 Summer Institute July 14-17 in Palm Desert, Calif. The four-day event features top speakers discussing leadership, closing the achievement gap, mathematics literacy, ninth-grade transition and issues related to gangs.

About The Principals' Partnership

The Principals' Partnership, the signature giving program of the Union Pacific Foundation, is one of America's premier business and education partnerships. The program supports a network of 1,000 public high school principals in 21 states. Professional development opportunities, including the Summer Leadership Institute, are offered throughout the year. There is no cost to principals or school districts for Partnership activities. In addition, The Principals' Partnership maintains an award-winning public Web site ( featuring research briefs and case studies useful to all educators. It is estimated that The Principals' Partnership, through the participating principals, will reach approximately 71,000 teachers and 1 million students in the 2008-09 school year.

About Union Pacific

Union Pacific Corporation owns one of America's leading transportation companies. Its principal operating company, Union Pacific Railroad, links 23 states in the western two-thirds of the country and serves the fastest-growing U.S. population centers. Union Pacific's diversified business mix includes Agricultural Products, Automotive, Chemicals, Energy, Industrial Products and Intermodal. The railroad offers competitive long-haul routes from all major West Coast and Gulf Coast ports to eastern gateways. Union Pacific connects with Canada's rail systems and is the only railroad serving all six major gateways to Mexico, making it North America's premier rail franchise.

For further information, contact Shannon Sherman, (402) 934-9020 or Raquel Espinoza, (713) 962-8155.

The statements and information contained in the news releases provided by Union Pacific speak only as of the date issued. Such information by its nature may become outdated, and investors should not assume that the statements and information contained in Union Pacific's news releases remain current after the date issued. Union Pacific makes no commitment, and disclaims any duty, to update any of this information.