What is the first thought that comes to students’ minds when the alarm clock goes off each morning? Do they think: Not another day of school; I can’t wait until the weekend comes again. Let’s hope not. We don’t wish for the Ferris Bueller syndrome where students ditch out on a fun-packed day of learning.
To help educators connect kids to school, I am going to share an incentive-based system that will have kids popping out of bed as quick as the mole in the arcade game Whac-a-Mole—excited about coming to school. Before proceeding, I want to give credit to the Rodriguez PREP Academy staff for their ingenious work in helping to create this intricate system.
The M.E.R.I.T. system
Generally speaking, the Meeting Expectations & Realizing Individual Talent (M.E.R.I.T.) system allows for students to earn MERITs (or points) for excellence in academics, behavior, and attendance—along with involvement in extra-curricular activities. As students progressively earn MERITs, they move up in “ranks”—earning a variety of privileges at the school. All students are required to wear lanyards with distinguishable rank name badges.
This system stimulates students. Don’t be surprised to see students proudly placing their advancement certificates on the front of their folders. Not only will parents be raving about how their child is more motivated to do well in school, but they are also getting more involved in extra-curricular activities. This can take form when their child—for the first time ever—tries out for a sports team, participates and presents in a School Site Council Meetings, attends a school-sponsored musical event, etc.
Advancing through the Ranks
Below outlines each rank and accompanying privileges the students earn.
Private – Standard Name Badge: All students will begin the school year with zero (0) MERITS. The 2008-2009 Ranking Officers will receive 15% of their previous ranks minimum. Additionally, all qualifying students will receive Bonus MERITs for high and/or improving 2008-2009 CST scores.
Corporal – Standard Badge (75 MERITS): Corporal Certificate of Advancement, New Rank Sticker for Badge.
Sergeant – Standard Badge (200 MERITS): Sergeant Certificate of Advancement, New Rank Sticker for Badge, two front of the line passes—a taste of the everyday life of an Officer.
Lieutenant – New Premium Badge Designating Lieutenant Rank (350 MERITS): Lieutenant Certificate of Advancement, Daily Lieutenant Lunch Line, Small Spirit Item Choice (e.g., school lanyard, spirit pin, spirit flag, etc.), Letter Home from Principal, Advancement Celebrated on Marque in Front of School.
Captain – New Premium Badge Designating Captain Rank (500 MERITS): Captain Certificate of Advancement, Photo with Principal During Lunch, Daily Captain Lunch Line, Positive Letter Home from the Principal, Advancement Celebrated on Marque in Front of School.
Major – New Premium Badge Designating Major Rank (700 MERITS): Major Certificate of Advancement, Major T-shirt, Daily Major Lunch Line, Positive Phone Call Home From Principal, Qualify for End of the Year “Major” Field Trip, Pizza with the Principal, Advancement Celebrated on Marque in Front of School.
Colonel – Blue Name Badge (850 MERITS): Colonel Plaque of Advancement (presented at the end of the year grade-level Awards Assembly), Positive Home Visit From Principal, Daily Colonel Lunch Line, and Commemorative Printed Metal Plate With Your Name On It For the M.E.R.I.T. Wall of Fame, Advancement Celebrated on Marque in Front of School.
General – Red Name Badge (1000 MERITS): General Plaque of Advancement, Special Student Hall Pass (with limitations), Daily General Lunch Line, Principal Buys your Yearbook, 5×7 Commemorative Plaque on the Wall of Fame.
A Breakdown of the M.E.R.I.T.s
Following extensive dialogue to generate and winnow a variety of ideas the staff determined the following allocation of MERITS.
- 10 MERITS for a Proficient score on grade-level common assessments in Math and Language Arts (all grade levels).
- 10 MERITS for a Proficient score on grade-level common assessments in Science and Social Studies (upper grade levels).
- 10 MERITS for Proficient Effort/Participation in Social Studies or Science and an elective block (lower grade levels).
- 5-15 MERITS for Honor Roll
- Each teacher will be allotted 10 MERITS per month to award Student(s) of the Month. Teachers may divide points among multiple students.
- 5-10 MERITS for monthly PE effort and participation.
*Note: Students in Alternative Core, with IEPs, and/or EL goals will earn MERITs surrounding an individualized plan.
- 10 MERITS Per Month for No High Level Referrals
- The office staff will monitor Behavior MERITS on a bi-weekly basis.
- 10 MERITS Per Month for Perfect Attendance
- The office staff will monitor Attendance MERITS on a bi-weekly basis.
- 10 Bonus MERITS for Perfect Attendance at Trimester.
- 5 MERITS for perfect attendance during State Testing.
- 20 MERITS for complete participation in a sports program (volleyball, softball, basketball, soccer, cheer, and pep).
- Bonuses for wins and championships will be awarded at the end of each season.
- 20 MERITS for complete participation in an academic program/competition (e.g., Black History Bee Team, Pentathlon Team, Spelling Bee Team, Odyssey of the Mind Team).
- Bonuses for wins and championships will be awarded at the end of each competition.
- 10 MERITS for Band/Orchestra Evening Concerts.
- 3 MERITS for trying out for each athletic and/or academic team.
- 1-5 MERITS for parent participation in the evening events.
- 5 MERITS Per Month for Participation in Various Duties (e.g., Yearbook and ASB).
- 2 MERITS Per Day for Attendance in Off-track Intersession (Note. Students must attend more than 60% of the designated dates to earn any MERITS).
- 5 MERITS Per Day for Attendance in Saturday Academy.
- 1-5 MERITS for Participation in Other Extra-Curricular Activities (e.g., Dances, Noontime Activities, Skating Parties, Dress-Up Days, Fan Support, etc.).
- 1-20 MERITS for Participation in school-wide fundraisers.
- 5-10 MERITS for participation in the school-wide Science Fair.
Monitoring the M.E.R.I.T. system
Monitoring the M.E.R.I.T. system is a big task. To assist, I offer an example of the responsibilities of various members of the school.
One employee is assigned to monitor the entire M.E.R.I.T. system database, which includes the inputting of all earned MERITS. The certificated staff, vice principal, ASB Advisor, counselors, and attendance clerk will submit names to this individual at the designated times throughout the school year. The principal will ensure that all MERITS are entered into the database in a timely fashion.
- At the conclusion of each common assessment, one employee gathers and submits (via DataDirector) a list of students who scored Proficient or Advanced.
- The Team Leader will submit the names of students who score Proficient or Advanced in re-takes of the common assessments (within or outside of the instructional day).
- Each teacher (lower grade levels) will submit MERITS for Proficient Effort/Participation in Social Studies or Science and MI Block.
- The Alternative Core, ELD, and Special Education teachers will submit the list of names of students who meet their individualized goal.
- The teacher with oversight of Honor Roll will submit names of all students at the conclusion of each Trimester.
- PE Teachers will submit PE MERITS at the conclusion of each month.
- Every two weeks, the vice principal will submit the names of the students who earned MERITS for exceptional behavior (e.g., No High Level Referrals).
- Every two weeks, the attendance clerk and counselors will submit the names of the students who earned MERITS for exceptional attendance.
- The ASB adviser will have oversight of monitoring ad submitting the MERITs for all extra-curricular activities, events, etc.
The M.E.R.I.T. system connects kids to school and focuses on building the child as a whole (academically, emotionally, and behaviorally). It is a win-win for parents, students, and school staff.
Perry Wiseman, author, Strong Schools, Strong Leaders: What matter most in times of change