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# It pays to pass the AP

March 15, 2007, 10:57 am

The National Math and Science Initiative, a nonprofit group with funding from the ExxonMobil Foundation, is starting a program to award $250 to students in participating schools for every passing score (3 or more out of 5) on a collection of 13 Advanced Placement exams. Texas lawyer and education activist Tom Luce, the organization’s chief executive, said the program is designed to “help kids succeed in high school so they can succeed in college” and particularly to encourage minority students to major in math, engineering and science. Luce said AP English was included because reading and writing skills are essential to success in math and science. More than 2.3 million AP tests were given in 2006 in 37 subjects, according to the College Board. Among 2006 high school graduates, about 15 percent got at least one grade of 3 or better on any AP test. Whole story here. The debate that this program generates, it seems, is whether offering cash incentives for passing an AP exam undermines student interest in the subject. But to me it seems unlikely that a student would take AP Calculus just for the money. And students who would, probably wouldn’t be among the 15% getting a 3 or better. Also, there’s a nice cottage industry to be made here: Offering independent, outside preparation courses to students in this program on how to pass AP exams, charging$50 per student per exam. If a student takes that course and passes the AP, then they will spend $83 for exam fees and$50 for the course and still net $117. (That’s before exam fee reductions, which are often available for financial need and through state funding, and which the Initiative group is also working toward.) In the meanwhile, you get$50 a head and could make a tidy profit. [Full disclosure: I have been employed by ETS in the past as a reader for the AP Calculus exam. But wait, that makes me even more qualified to do what I described. Hmmm....]

[h/t Joanne Jacobs]

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