A Review of the Million Motivation Campaign in new York Schools

In the continuing quest to inspire children to learn and take a more active approach to their education many new programs have been developed in order to achieve this goal. In addition to the development of charter schools and the greater focus on accountability in education, incentive programs have also been created geared towards rewarding kids for their educational efforts. One of these incentive programs is called the “Million Motivational Campaign” and was launched in February of 2008 in seven New York city schools.

The Million Motivational Campaign was a program pitched to the New York city board of education by Ben Nott and Duncan Marshall of the Droga5 corporation, an advertising company. The underlying principle of the program was to reward chidren for their academic marks such as grades, behavior, participation, and their performance on homework and other related assignments. The reward for their performance was something that all young children desire in this day and age, a cellphone equipped with prepaid minutes.

Due to a ban on cellphone use in New York city schools a plan was devised so that the phones could be deactivated during school hours and only the educational tools of the devices be accessible during this time. The “school in”, “school out” feature on these phones allowed kids to communicate with each other and teachers after school, as well as play games, text, or use the phone in any capacity that they wished, only not during school hours. The program was put into effect in late February of 2008 with the distribution of 2500 phones in seven New York city schools, relying on an initial investment of $2 million.

Of the schools chosen to test this experimental program, four were KIPP charter schools and the other three were considered “high-need” Brooklyn middle schools. The phones themselves and the reward of additional minutes that could be put to use toward talk time, downloads, and games was an immediate success and it’s achievements could be easily recognized. Rather than having to wait for test scores to confirm the data, there was an immediate increase in grades, good behavior, and class participation, with the students now receiving an incentive for their positive actions. This type of “real world” payoff for their efforts compelled the students to work harder and to more readily apply themselves to their work. The success of the program earned the team who devised the idea a Titanium Lion at the Cannes Lion Awards and the program has been considered for widespread implementation across both the state and the country.