Cash-for-tests program shows mixed results

August 20, 2008 3:48:21 PM PDT
A privately funded initiative to pay students in some New York City high schools up to $1,000 for passing Advanced Placement tests is not making the grade. According to results released Wednesday, students at the 31 schools participating in the program called Rewarding Achievement, or REACH, took 345 more tests this year than last year. But the passing rate dropped slightly, from 35 percent in 2007 to 32 percent this year.

A total of 1,161 student passed 1,476 Advanced Placement exams, earning $500 for each score of a 3, $750 for each score of a 4, and $1,000 for each top score of a 5.

"We are delighted to congratulate the REACH Scholars who earned high marks on rigorous college-level exams," said Edward Rodriguez, Executive Director of REACH.

But Pedro Noguera, a professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, said he was surprised the test scores didn't jump a bit.

"I would have thought for kids who were on the borderline that they would have seen an improvement," he said.

Twenty-five public schools and six parochial schools were chosen to participate in the cash-reward program.

The program is funded by the Pershing Square Foundation and is intended to increase the number of low-income and minority students who are prepared for college.

But Noguera said the results suggest that kids need better instruction, not incentives.

"I'd invest in tutoring before I'd invest in incentives," he said.

Advanced Placement tests are offered in various subjects in the senior year of high school. Passing an A.P. test allows students to earn college credits.

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