New York students can take worthy AP scores to the bank
By Jay Mathews
By Jay Mathews
Get a top score on an Advanced Placement exam in May in any of 31 New York high schools that serve low-income neighborhoods, and you'll get $1,000.
The Council of Urban Professionals and the Pershing Square Foundation last week announced the program at one of the participating schools in central Harlem, the Frederick Douglass Academy. It is part of an expanding movement to use cash to motivate good performance on the college-level exams, despite some educators' concerns that monetary incentives might undermine the love of learning and hurt teacher morale.
In March, a group of educators and business executives called the National Math and Science Initiative said they planned to pay $250 for every AP passing score (3 or higher on the 5-point scale) in science, English and math at participating schools. Some educators have applauded the idea, particularly for low-income students, pointing to the success of a similar program in Dallas. Others say it could destroy the faculty team spirit that has brought success to some schools using AP in urban neighborhoods.
The national initiative, backed by $140 million in foundation grants, will start in Virginia and six other states as soon as the schools are picked.
The national initiative inspired the separate New York program. Organizers in New York said they will give money not only to students who get good grades on AP tests but also to the students' schools and school administrators. They said they would be happy to reward AP teachers if their union allows merit pay, an issue being negotiated.
Whitney Tilson of the Council of Urban Professionals said the Rewarding Achievement program is for public and private New York schools in which at least half of students are from low-income families, among other criteria. AP scores of 3 will get $500, 4s will get $750, and 5s will get $1,000. The only AP exams not included are six foreign language exams that are relatively easy for native speakers.
The plan is to pay the schools and their principals and vice principals for each additional student who passes an AP test, compared with the previous year. The organizers calculate that in the first year, 2,000 passing AP scores would bring about $1.3 million in rewards to students and $700,000 to schools and administrators.