Research News

Impact of rewards on student attendance, performance aim of new Vanderbilt study

The impact of recognition and rewards on student attendance and performance in afterschool programs is the aim of a new study being launched by the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University and uBoost, a company that manages student reward programs.

“This study proposes to evaluate the impact of various financial incentive interventions for student attendance in federally funded afterschool programs,” Matthew Springer, director of the National Center on Performance Incentives and a research assistant professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, said. “By partnering with uBoost, we will be able to facilitate timely access to rewards for students in a way that is relevant to the student and efficient for educators.”

uBoost is an online performance recognition and rewards platform where points are awarded to students for positive behaviors and redeemed for relevant rewards. The program allows teachers to recognize students in the form of points, performance-based honor badges and publicity within the school. Students are able to choose rewards that interest them, such as supporting their favorite charitable cause, customizing their own safe, virtual environment or participating in contests to win premium rewards such as gift cards.

During the study, students and their parents will receive rewards for student attendance and their outcomes will be compared with a control group. The researchers will use this data to measure the incentives’ impact on attendance, parental involvement and student performance in federally funded afterschool tutoring programs, namely supplemental education services (SES).

A 2009 study by Vanderbilt researchers reported that SES had a significant, positive effect on test score gains in both mathematics and reading for those students who attended most of their tutoring sessions. However, even though the number of students eligible for SES tutoring has increased dramatically nationwide, enrollment continues to fall short of expectations. A 2006 Government Accountability Office report indicates that fewer than one in five eligible students enrolled in SES during the 2004-05 school year. Moreover, of those students who did enroll, only a small percentage attended at least one tutoring session.

Some stakeholders believe that students lack appropriate incentives to attend, an issue that the research study conducted by uBoost and the NCPI will inform.

“Previous studies have shown that students benefit from SES and uBoost has a history of increasing student attendance, engagement and achievement,” uBoost CEO John Bower said. “We look forward to having a positive impact on students’ education through the pilot programs administered by Vanderbilt.”

For more information on the National Center for Performance Incentives and to access the reports, visit For more information on Vanderbilt’s Peabody College, visit

Media Contact: Melanie Moran, (615) 322-NEWS