Pine River schools offer incentives

By Sarah Neubecker

Special to the Star

LEROY - Turning in homework on time at Pine River Middle School is worth more than the feeling of a job well done. It could be worth a new flat-screen TV.

Around 50 prizes worth $1,327 were given to students who turned in their work on time in the Red Line Drawing held Jan. 25, to celebrate the end of the semester. Prizes included Kindles, Nooks, a flat-screen TV, DVD players and many gift cards.

“There are some awesome prizes,” Pine River Schools Superintendent Jim Ganger said, “I wish I was a kid.”

Students were entered in the drawing if they had consistently turned in all their assignments by Friday each week. They could be entered into three different buckets depending on their academic responsibility for first marking period, second marking period, and the whole semester.

“It’s an excellent reward program for students,” Ganger said.

The school began the incentive program when the middle school was built in 1996, and always has a large number of students meeting the requirements for the drawing.

“Last year almost exactly half of our students were not Red Lined one time all year,” Middle School Principal Darrell Holmes said.

Students are ‘Red Lined’ when they fail to turn in assignments by the end of the week, and face strict consequences. If a student is Red Lined, they are not allowed to participate in athletics or any after school activity for a week.

“If you’re the starting point guard or quarterback and you’re missing an assignment, you don’t get to participate,” Holmes said.

Though the penalties seem harsh, Holmes said the program improves student performance.

“There’s a lot of controversy because students can’t play in sports just for missing an assignment,” Holmes said. “But high expectations give you high results.”

The high results are evident, in the rankings issued by the Michigan Department of Education in late 2011. Pine River Middle School ranks among the top 25 percent of schools in Michigan based on student achievement on state tests and school improvement. This ranking is the highest among all middle schools in Osceola, Lake, Clare, Mecosta and Wexford counties.

“You can’t argue with success,” Holmes said.

He attributes much of the school’s achievement to the school’s staff and parent teacher group, called the Friends of the Middle School, who donated the majority of the funds for the Red Line Drawing.

Friends of the Middle School raises money throughout the school year and donates the funds for the prizes for two Red Line Drawings, one at the end of each semester.

“They are very active and very committed,” Ganger said. “They work extremely hard year-round to generate the funds.”

Pine River Middle School plans to continue the Red Line Drawing each year.