Federal

Tying Cash Awards to AP-Exam Scores Seen as Paying Off

By Scott J. Cech — January 14, 2008 1 min read

Is there anything wrong with receiving $500 for a test score? What if that inducement seems to help pull up SAT scores and college-enrollment rates among disadvantaged students?

A recent study by C. Kirabo Jackson, a professor of labor economics at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., answers neither of those questions. But as money-for-achievement programs grow in New York City and elsewhere, the research pours new fuel on the debate over whether remuneration works in education and what the trade-offs are.

Published last month on the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute’s Web site, the study found that when students and teachers in disadvantaged Texas public schools were offered up to $500 for each passing Advanced Placement score, AP participation and scores rose.

Yet Mr. Jackson said the main spur for the score jumps at the schools in Texas’ Advanced Placement Incentive Program, or APIP, didn’t seem to be cash.

See Also

Should students be given the chance to cash in on their AP scores? Join the discussion.

“I can’t say conclusively if it was or it wasn’t, but what I heard from guidance counselors was … that it changed the culture of the school,” he said.

Suddenly, for example, AP classes were no longer seen as cripplingly uncool, he said, but a way to buy a new iPod.

Though the cash awards were limited to AP tests, the students’ achievements were not.

Comparing college-entrance-exam scores at schools before APIP and three years afterward, Mr. Jackson found an average 33 percent net increase in students scoring above 1100 on the SAT or 24 on the ACT. That gain was over and above increases that the schools would have been expected to see otherwise, based on comparable schools.

Over that same period, schools also registered an 8 percent net increase in students enrolling at Texas colleges following their adoption of APIP, again taking into account increases experienced by non-APIP schools.

One critic of financial-incentive programs, Ronald E. Chennault, an education professor at DePaul University in Chicago, called APIP “potentially problematic,” but “better designed and more careful” than New York’s cash-for-grades program, which pays students small sums to take standardized tests and bigger amounts to earn perfect scores.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 16, 2008 edition of Education Week

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Federal Biden Picks San Diego Superintendent for Deputy Education Secretary
San Diego Superintendent Cindy Marten was a classroom teacher for 17 years before she became a school and district administrator.
2 min read
Image of the White House seal
Bet Noire/Getty
Federal Biden Calls for $130 Billion in New K-12 Relief, Scaled Up Testing, Vaccination Efforts
President-elect Joe Biden proposed new aid for schools as part of a broader COVID-19 relief plan, which will require congressional approval.
5 min read
First-grade teacher Megan Garner-Jones, left, and Principal Cynthia Eisner silent clap for their students participating remotely and in-person at School 16, in Yonkers, N.Y., on Oct. 20, 2020.
First-grade teacher Megan Garner-Jones, left, and Principal Cynthia Eisner silent clap for their students participating remotely and in-person at School 16, in Yonkers, N.Y.
Mary Altaffer/AP
Federal Who Is Miguel Cardona? Education Secretary Pick Has Roots in Classroom, Principal's Office
Many who've worked with Joe Biden's pick for education secretary say he's ready for what would be a giant step up.
15 min read
Miguel Cardona, first-time teacher, in his fourth-grade classroom at Israel Putnam School in Meriden, Ct. in August of 1998.
Miguel Cardona, chosen to lead the U.S. Department of Education, photographed in his 4th-grade classroom at Israel Putnam School in Meriden, Conn., in 1998.
Courtesy of the Record-Journal
Federal Obama Education Staff Involved in Race to the Top, Civil Rights Join Biden's White House
Both Catherine Lhamon and Carmel Martin will serve on President-elect Joe Biden's Domestic Policy Council.
4 min read