Jay Matthews has a new column up about our program and for the most part I love it - he really highlights the great work the National Math and Science programs are doing and the success. He does not like the student incentives in Cash Incentives for Students.
First - the incentives are a small part of the program but essential to transforming a school culture to one that celebrates academic achievement. Most of these students were not focused on college level classes but the incentives get their attention.
Second - the economy has drastically changed. While many students get their AP test fees waived or partially paid for there are many who are just above the threshold who don't qualify and don't have $80 per test. The incentives are paying for the tests and they would not take them otherwise.
Third - we agree with Jay - it is the results:
"The first 136 schools in its program — of teacher training, weekend study sessions and student supports — have seen the number of passing scores on Advanced Placement math, science and English tests increase 137 percent for all students and 203 percent for African American and Hispanic students in three years. It now has 462 schools, including some in southern Virginia."
"In a 2008 study of the program that is the model for the initiative, Northwestern University economist C. Kirabo Jackson found “the campuswide increases in the percentage of students in 11th and 12th grades who take AP or IB [International Baccalaureate] exams are driven primarily by increased participation among black and Hispanic students.” He found that the portion of students scoring above 1100 on the SAT or above 24 on the ACT increased 80 percent for blacks and 50 percent for Hispanics after the program took hold."
It works - NMSI transforms schools and creates a college going culture. And the incentives are a big part of that.