Putting Education Reform To The Test

Buying Supplies Equals Better Grades At Cash-Strapped Florida School

Sarah Gonzalez

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

A marine science class at South Broward High. Kevius Morgan, center, and Taylor Drake, right.

With budgets for classroom supplies shrinking, some teachers in a South Florida school are promising students an irresistible incentive if they help stock the classroom: better grades.

“The teacher was like, ‘Okay, I’m running out of paper towels and I don’t know how you’re going to dry your hands after you clean them,” said South Broward High School senior Kevius Morgan.

“So if you bring in paper towels you get a letter grade up.”

Morgan ultimately got an A in art class for bringing them in.

At the same school, an Algebra II student said her teacher gave the class a list of supplies like rulers, markers and scrap paper to bring in. “She was like, ‘a letter grade up if you bring in whatever is on that list,” senior Taylor Drake said. She said her final grade went from a C to a B.

The principal of the school, Alan Strauss, said he didn’t know the grades-for-supplies swap was going on. But he said it doesn’t surprise him “because of the difficult budgetary times.”

Strauss said he’s concerned this sort of swap could give wealthier students an unfair advantage in the classroom. “So I’m not a big fan of that,” he said. He said teachers wouldn’t be going to students for school supplies five years ago.

What does the district think? According to the Broward County Public School District, the practice is impermissible but spokeswoman Marcy Smith said she wasn’t aware of an official extra credit policy.

Read and hear the larger story about Broward schools and how they’re dealing with budget cuts.


  • Kerm

    This is absolutely ridiculous. The school district should be ashamed for not supplying basics like paper towels. I can certainly understand the teacher’s desperation, but to swap tangibles for a higher grade is unethical. Grades measure achievement, etc., not whether or not a student can bring in supplies. I can see many a student relying on this grade inflation system, and then doing or learning less. Would some children steal things to “contribute” to class supplies? I have been teaching for a long time and have continually been frustrated by inadequate supplies of books. Copiers that constantly break down and paper that has been rationed (literally) are a problem as well. I am disgusted to read that there is no comment by any school official about rectifying the supply problem. What’s next- students scratching their school work in the dirt with sticks?

  • Bombeck

    So now they’re teaching students how to buy grades. Very nice. I can see offering some small extra credit for community service, but this is ridiculous.

    • Smaloney

      Yes, let’s just keep dumbing down American children and ‘reward’ them with false hope, false reassurances and promises of success through passing grades for toilet paper, but let’s watch and see when they go looking for jobs after they graduate…and I assume that will be with honors? Will the budget strapped government find jobs for all these uneducated and unskilled individuals? I feel terribly sad for educators, students, and our future if this is our best thinking in action.

  • Lori_m_burke

    I have mixed feelings about extra credit or buying grades for school supplies. However, as a SWFL parent, I have no problem helping out my daughters’ school with supplies if it means that teachers can get paid the wages they deserve and programs are not cut. This is a tough economy and we all have to help out. My daughters’ teachers are inspiring, motivating and talented and the curriculum is rigorous… Keep up the wonderful work at Fort Myers High School!

  • Old Engineer

    Sorry Kerm, I’m finding it hard to pull away from your comments without a little disagreement.
    In the 70′s I watched my best friend teaching math under a tree and on the front steps of the school with a carpenters tape measure, to kids who were inspired and infected with curiosity. For decades, I watch new, young teachers in the fall cue at discount stores with shopping carts full of supplies, that I know for a fact that they will pay for themselves from their own meager salary.
    In the 80′s there were discussions about disposable children and a lost generation. Today I believe we may be watching a second generation grow up without the most basic survival skills in urban or rural landscapes.
    What is ridiculous is the position the People of this country have been placed in to need to choose between two bad choices.
    Teachers will keep teaching and eager students will continue to follow those who work in their best interests. Kids are trying to communicate and not many are listening.
    And indeed, if we need to teach with a stick in the dirt, so be it. That didn’t seem to slow down Pythagoras and Archimedes.

    • Kerm

      I take your point. My point was not to denigrate teaching outside when appropriate. Teaching outside when it has merit is just fine. I have also spent my own money buying supplies for my students/classroom. I find it unbelievably negligent and short-sighted that this school system (and our society) is not insuring that their students/children get a chance to learn authentically and honestly. It is not authentic to award higher grades to those who can boost the amount of supplies available. Should parents want to donate anonymously by bringing supplies to school, well, that’s fine, I guess, but grades should not be inflated in response to that. I do agree with you when you say, “teachers will keep teaching and eager students will…follow those who work in their best interests,”but I have a funny feeling that Pythagoras and Archimedes would not have deemed a student as more advanced in his actual learning if he brought extra sticks when it was time for instruction.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »