To Increase Attendance, Schools Are Incentivizing Students With Prizes, Like A New Car

A San Antonio school district's Toyota Challenge is giving away a RAV4 to incentivize good attendance, while others are offering monetary prizes as chronic absentee rates increase.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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School attendance has long been a major concern among school leaders, as the rates of chronically absent students perpetuate. But now that the pandemic has exacerbated the issue, schools are getting creative in order to entice children to show up to class. Some are going bold, offering major prizes to reward attendance, such as new car giveaways. 

Students who come to school have a chance to win a new car within the San Antonio Independent School District. The concept is unheard of but is just one of the many creative ways school officials are attempting to raise attendance. Furthermore, the plan appears to be working.

According to an article published by The 74 Million, this school year is already shaping up to be better in terms of attendance for the Texas district. There is no clear evidence yet that offering up the chance at a new whip is to thank. However, evidence backs this theory up.

Research has found that financial incentives typically are the most effective in driving teenagers. Oftentimes, parents will reward students with a cash bonus after they produce good grades. But on the contrary, children are more prone to strive for something they can control, like studying or even attendance. 

So how is the car giveaway going? The district is officially calling it the Toyota challenge. Students can earn raffle tickets each semester simply by showing good attendance records. 

Additionally, students earn bonus tickets if their attendance rates go up from the previous school year. The superintendent said this was a way for them to especially entice students struggling to show up on a regular basis. But luckily for the school, the cost to enact this program won’t be coming out of their academic budget, as the $28,000 bill is being picked up by local sponsors. 

Elsewhere across the county, many other districts are following suit, just not necessarily to the same big wheel magnitude. The Hickman Mills C-1 School District in Kansas is offering gift cards to reward good attendance. Each month three students’ names are drawn to receive a $50 gift card.

For students to be entered, good attendance is key. Each week of perfect attendance get them one entry. Additionally, a bicycle giveaway is raffled at the end of the year for students with perfect attendance. 

For the long-term, it is unknown for now whether or not these incentives will prove successful. But as attendance rates continue to alarming decrease, district leaders know how important it is to try out new things. Last year, many districts reported drastic data on student attendance.

Major cities seemed to suffer the worse. In New York City, more than 40% of the nation’s largest district was marked chronically absent. This means that this group of students missed at least 10% of the entire school year. 


Some education experts are doubtful that these monetary rewards will be enough to reverse the growing trend. They believe there is a sinister root cause keeping kids at home that needs to instead be addressed. Barriers like at-home family issues, negative school experiences that may arise from bullying, and other extreme factors may be at play, and offering up gift cards, and even cars are not likely to indefinitely curb the issue.

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