Do you believe this type of reinforcement can help improve students grades and attendance? In one school district, students are rewarded for good grades and attendance with Happy Meals.
This is a good question and things like this need to be asked in view of the current state of affairs in our education system. In light of this, let me make a few comments.
First, it is a good to use incentives to educate young people. To be sure, education and learning itself should be its own reward, but in the real world some incentives might be a good idea. In light of this, happy meals from McDonald's might work. In the least we can say that there is a step in the right direction in that people are thinking about how to make the educational system stronger.
Second, happy meals might not be the best choice. As you probably know, fast foods are not the most healthy. I would think that the school would want to make more responsible choices when it comes to foods as rewards. Moreover, this would add to our obesity problem. Therefore, with some thought, there can be better incentives and choices. How about an honors course? How about an academic sleepover camp. The sky is the limit in terms of creativity. In light of this, I would think that better incentives could be offered.
I agree rewards and incentives are great. However, the downside to that notion is in the real world we don't always get rewarded for making the right choices above the reward we receive for doing the right thing.
Nevertheless, the reward should be just that--a reward--something the majority of the students will enjoy. However, it should also serve a double purpose of taking their education further in some way shape or form, even if it pertains more to life lessons than academics.
To directly answer your question: yes, I think it can help. Will it make significant changes to improved grades and attendance records? No. Some students will jump on board for the sake of the recognition, but ultimately the students will go to school and be on time and try their best regardless if rewards are there or not. This notion of rewards may increase the likelihood of others participating in making more of those "right choices" on a more regular basis, but it is not by any means a cure all.