Pay for AP

More students are taking Advanced Placement classes at Texas high schools where students get a $100 reward for passing the AP exam; teachers get $150 for each passing student. The program, which started in Dallas and is now spreading, is privately funded. Over five years, the number of Dallas students passing the AP exam jumped from 130 to 754, reports the Houston Chronicle. “The passing rate among minority students is 10 times higher than the national average” according to the program coordinator.

Bob Daniel, Tascosa High School principal in Amarillo, calls the program nothing short of “incredible.”

“We’ve had about a 300 percent increase in the number of tests taken over the last three years and a 190 percent increase in the number of tests passed,” Daniel said. “We are hearing back from our kids as they come back from college, saying they are much better prepared.”

The Chronicle quotes critics who say the money should be spent elsewhere, or that financial incentives would put too much pressure on some students. Actually, this program is creating opportunities for advanced study at mediocre and low-performing schools that typically don’t have enough ambitious students to justify AP Physics or AP European History. Once the classes are created, more students can give it a try.

Via Education News.

About Joanne


  1. If it works, I can’t think of a better use for the money.

  2. What do they mean by “pass” an AP exam? Are these kids getting 5s? Or are they getting 3s or 4s?

  3. Insufficiently Sensitive says:

    You mean, if spending $7,000 per annum to eddicate a kid won’t do it, you can ignore the WEA demands for $10,000? Just offer a small but noticeable incentive directly to the kid and the teacher, instead of bloating the institutional budget? What a horrible idea, some adult’s self-esteem might be dented.

  4. There was an article in the local papers a year or two ago that talked about a study that revealed that “bribing” students to achieve better grades worked suprisingly well.

    This was simply a study of the results of students who were paid (by their parents) a semi-sizable amount of money (~$50-$100) for As and correspondingly less for Bs.

    The results were significant. I guess plain old praise doesn’t cut it :-).

  5. Steve LaBonne says:

    Shh, not too loud guys- Alfie Kohn might hear. 😉

  6. I hate to admit it, but bribing does work, even with younger kids. We I was younger, I refused to learn to read with the rest of the class, and as a result I fell behind. I was sent to a specialist who taught my to read by bribing me. Don’t worry, not money. I was give a piece of candy for reading a page, and a piece of cake when i finished a whole book. I can honestly say I learned to read because I was bribed with candy.

  7. Wacky Hermit says:

    I went to school with a lot of students who would have studied hard enough on their own to pass the AP test. How about offering teachers $150 for each previously underperforming student who passes an AP test?

  8. Insufficiently Sensitive says:

    And there’s a relatively inexhaustible source of funds for the bribes: administrative salaries of the education bureaucracy. One $45,000 salary (never mind the benefits which are about equal) would be sufficient to bribe 300 kids into learning something. How else could one administrator benefit those kids so well?

  9. Steve LaBonne says:

    Only $45,000? Maybe that’s the janitor. 😉 Here’s an excerpt from a local (Cleveland Plain Dealer) story about a suburban district in financial difficulties: “The cuts – which mean seven layoffs – will take effect next school year. Most focused on administrative jobs. For instance, the board eliminated the position of executive assistant to the superintendent for a savings of $53,149. The position of purchasing supervisor will go to save $87,981. Also, Rebecca Bode, director of pupil services, retires at the end of the school year. Her position will not be filled. That will save $118,423.”

  10. You can take your $150 and shove it up your ass, Wacky Hermit. I will not be BRIBED by your anybody else to do my job. I do my job because it is my job, and you can go straight to hell.

  11. PJ/Maryland says:

    Linden, the usual idea of passing an AP test is a 3, which considered “qualified”. Most colleges will accept a 3 for at least general credit. (Eg, a 3 on the English AP would count as “one English course taken”.) Ironically, it doesn’t always count for “advanced placement”; years ago, I got a 4 on the English AP but was told I’d still have to take English 101 before signing up for higher level courses. As briefly laid out here, a 4 is considered “well-qualified” and a 5 is “extremely well-qualified”.

    C’mon, Rita, unless you’re some sort of saint _and_ independently wealthy, you’re “bribed” with a salary to get up in the morning and teach. Incentive pay is very much frowned on by the unions, because it might lead to the end of the seniority pay system. But would it really be so bad if your school gave out some “Outstanding Teacher” plaques at the end of the year? And wouldn’t getting a check along with a plaque show that the winning teacher(s) were actually appreciated? Or would you keep the plaque and shove just the check up Wacky Hermit’s ass?

  12. I understand Rita’s taking offense. As a professional, she already does the best job she can as a teacher and cannot be bribed to do better. Professionals do not prorate their effort based on the amount of money they make. I would wonder about a teacher whose performance improved substantially after getting such bonuses, unless that could be ascribed to the kids getting bonuses too.

    As for the kids – it would be nice if they realized how they would be helping themselves by taking the AP classes and doing the best they could, but if they don’t, I think a little bribery couldn’t hurt. Once the school develops a culture of lots of kids taking those AP classes and expecting to do well, all the kids benefit.

  13. PJ/Maryland says:

    Does anyone else think this article sounds a little odd? I get the impression that the reporter doesn’t really understand the AP exam system. “The gateway is the Advanced Placement exam.” Umm, but there are lots of AP exams, not just one. And calling AP classes “prep classes” is pretty confusing, too.

    The passing rate among minority students is 10 times higher than the national average for juniors and seniors, Fleisher said.

    This doesn’t sound numerically possible. It would require national minority students to pass only 10% of the time (which would be pretty bizarre), and that the Dallas minority students pass 100% of the time.

    Eva Ostrum, a Manhattan-based educational consultant, said she once worked with a troubled high school student who became interested in Russian history. His turnaround to academics gave him the courage to take an advanced placement exam. Unfortunately, he didn’t pass.

    “It would’ve been devastating to him if he knew other kids were getting money,” Ostrum said. “And I wonder if he would’ve had the confidence to take the class if monetary rewards were given.”

    Maybe it’s not the reporter, maybe he just talks to very confused people. This “education consultant” apparently thinks incentives work backwards. And that rewarding success somehow devastates the unsuccessful more than being unsuccessful does.

    Maybe the backwards incentives (“If you study hard, and do well, I’ll hit you with this stick!”) stuff is why the guy she tutored didn’t do well on his AP test. Or maybe he didn’t pass because there is no Russian History AP? As far as I can tell, the only history APs are American, European, and World.

    Anyway, thanks for pointing out the article, Joanne.

  14. PJ: I earn a salary, and I work hard for that salary. I am insulted at the implication that I’m somehow holding out for a bonus. That if only you gave me a few hundred bucks more a year, I’d do a better a job. I’m a professional. I always do my best, just as I’m sure you do your best in your job (whatever it may be).

    As a matter of fact, at my school, we quite purposefully do not have teacher of the year awards, etc. Teaching is not a competition. And don’t tempt me with a plaque chaser to the check, please.

  15. Steve LaBonne says:

    Then why is it, Rita, that teacher’s unions keep telling us that the only way to improve student achievement is to give their members more money? Evidently they’re insulting you in one of two ways. Either they’re contradicting you and saying that you really will teach better if paid more, or they’re admitting that you teach as well as you can already, but that your best is not good enough and higher salaries are needed to attract better teachers than you. Note that there’s no wiggle room here- one or the other explanation *must* be true to support union claims that higher teacher salaries will improve education. And so, do you plan to stand up to your union president and protest this insult during your district’s next round of contract negotiations? If not, spare us the self-serving declarations of virtue.

  16. As someone who went to high school when there was no such thing as A.P. exams, recent trends for high school students passing such exams (minimum pass score is a ‘3’) doesn’t mean that the student will receive college credit (in all cases).

    Due to the coursework in certain college classes, most colleges only grant credit now for exam scores of 4 or 5 (here is some stuff from MIT):

    Biology – score of 5 earns 12 units in introductory biology

    Chemistry – in order to earn 12 units in Principles of chemical science, you have to
    pass an exam given by the chemistry dept
    during freshman orientation.

    Computer Science – no AP credits awarded at all
    (either for Comp Sci. A or AB exam)

    Math – a score of 4 or 5 on the calc BC exam will earn 12 units for calculus I, no credit will be given for the Calculus AB exam.

    Humanaties and Social Science – On applicable exams, for a score of a 5, credit will be given for 9 general elective units.

    It would appear that the score of ‘3’ and in most cases ‘4’ will not suffice at M.I.T. (or for that matter at most colleges any more). I can remember a time in the late 80’s where a score of ‘3’ would be accepted for credit (I guess not anymore)…


  17. Steve, your logic is flawed. Your simple dichotomy (with “no wiggle room”) falls because your stated premise (that unions say the only way to improve student achievement is to give union members more money) is demonstrably untrue, and so your related conclusions about what the unions are really saying (that all teachers are alike in ability and motivation, that Rita is not as good as potential teachers who would only work for more money, and that motivation is the only reason to give raises) have no logical basis.

    Lest you jump on me for defending unions (I generally do when it comes to matters of member representation, but I’m not here), note that all I’m saying is that you haven’t addressed what Rita said in any reasonable way: all you’ve done is insult her by using faulty logic in order to call her “self serving.”

  18. Steve LaBonne says:

    Come on, Michael, you know as well as I do the unions are (as is their job) constantly claiming that higher teacher salaries are essential to maintain / improve educational quality. If my list of the two ways this could work is a “false dichotomy”, you should be able to propose a third mechanism. So what might that be?

    I get really tired of people like Rita pretending to be saints. I have no problem admitting that I’m happier and therefore more productive if I believe I’m receiving the most compensation I can reasonably expect my employers to offer. In turn, my employers set my salary by estimating the difficulty of replacing me and how much they need to pay me to keep me from going elsewhere. That’s how it works in the real world with real people. And teachers- *not at all to their detriment*, so don’t twist my words- are real people, not plaster saints.

  19. Steve, you’ve now said that teacher’s unions say raising salaries is essential to raising educational outcomes; in you first post, you wrote that teacher’s unions say that it’s the only way. Necessary does not mean sufficient, and your dichotomy does not work where the proposed solution is necessary but not sufficient, as is the case here. That was the basis of my objection.

    Now, to your comment about Rita: she does not pretend to be a saint; she does say that bribes would not motivate her to do her job better, as she is already doing–in her estimation–the best she can on a reasonably consistent basis. My reading of what she said was “pay me what I’m worth but don’t insult me by throwing me a bone, the implicit message of which is that I’m not doing my job well.”

    Teachers’ unions, btw, do not say that teachers will work harder if they’re paid more, or that the people who aren’t teaching because of the money are all better than the people who are teaching. They’re saying that teachers deserve more money generally, and that there are people who would be good and great teachers who would teach if the pay were better. I’m not sure about the former, as I have no idea what “deserve” means in most cases, but the latter is certainly true, and says nothing about the good and great teachers who are teaching now.

  20. Steve LaBonne says:

    “Teachers’ unions, btw, do not say that teachers will work harder if they’re paid more, or that the people who aren’t teaching because of the money are all better than the people who are teaching. They’re saying that teachers deserve more money generally, and that *there are people who would be good and great teachers who would teach if the pay were better.*” (emphasis mine)

    The starred phrase is precisely my explanation #2, so you have failed dismally to convict me olf a false dichotomy. My point stands, that if Ritra really means what she says, she should object to her union saying- as once again, everyone knows it does (you think I’ve never followed local news stories about teacher negotiations???)- that salary increases are needed to maintain educational quality. Your elaborate attempts to dance around this point have gotten you nowhere.

  21. Steve LaBonne says:

    By the way, I think that good teachers should be paid more- but (again as in the real world) only *good* teachers. That’s because I do think we need more effective, better-educated teachers than (on average) we have now, and I recognize that quality needs to be paid for. (And contra Rita, the good teachers we have now will certainly be motivated both to stay in teaching, and to go the extra mile, by being recognized with better pay.) But the egalitarian postion of the teachers unions that every teacher somehow “deserves” more money (arguing about what teachers “deserve” would be laughed at in the context of other professions) is an insult to taxpayers. If it’s only about “dessert” and not the need to attract / motivate the best people- i.e if we really can get top quality teaching at current salaries- then it would be a totally irresponsible use of our tax dollars to offer more. What teachers need to realize is that their resistance to identifying and rewarding merit vastly weakens the force of their arguments for more money.

  22. Steve, this is your point 2: “they’re admitting that you teach as well as you can already, but that your best is not good enough and higher salaries are needed to attract better teachers than you.” This is what I said, which you said was exactly the same thing: “there are people who would be good and great teachers who would teach if the pay were better.” They are not the same thing. Mine allows for the possibility that Rita is the best teacher who might ever be, but that higher salaries might attract people who could be good but who are more motivated by money than she is.

  23. Steve LaBonne says:

    The argument necessitates that the overall teaching corps is not as good as it could be. It might indeed allow for the exception you advance in Rita’s specific case- *except* that teachers’ unions, as I discussed above, are self-destructively unwilling to admit that some teachers are better than others lest that lead to non-egalitarian compensation policies (and Rita proudly associated herself with this mindset in her comment). There is no way out of this logical bind- if you refuse to admit that higher pay is needed, not because everybody “deserves” it but because of the need to attract, retain and motivate better teachers- you cannot convince the people who pay your salaries that you are justified in asking for more. This is also the dilemma of public employee unions in general. Having belonged to one in the past, I know from the inside how they function to advance the interests of the mediocre and unmotivated at the expense of the best qualified and performing employeees. The latter need to start taking more notice of the way their own unions work agaisnt their best interests.

  24. Y’all, Rita has said over and over and over that she is not a member of a union. You just cannot blame her or hold her accountable for what unions say and do.

  25. Steve, your argument is completely off-the-wall since, and I’ve stated it here (to you) more than once, I AM NOT A MEMBER OF ANY UNION, I HAVE NEVER BEEN A MEMBER OF ANY UNION, AND I DOUBT I WILL EVER BE A MEMBER OF ANY UNION IN THE FUTURE. I cannot object to anything “my union” says or does since I DO NOT HAVE A UNION.

    Now, have I made myself clear?

    As to your logic, the premise to your syllogism is false, and thus, so is your conclusion. All teachers are not uniformly wonderful. Some teachers are better than others. Perhaps more money would attract more talented individuals (I don’t believe it would it any significant numbers, however). I don’t believe better salaries would improve teaching significantly, however, because most of the best teachers I know are motivated by the kind of work we do, not our paycheck. More money is nice. Teacher pay should reflect our status as professionals in our communities (within the limitations of the tax base), but more money would likely not improve the actual quality of instruction in any measurable way. If salaries *fall* too much relative to other fields, then instruction could suffer as talented people will eventually want to make a living wage, but as long as salaries are adequate, they’re probably not a factor.
    Feel free to debate me on any point I make, but make sure it is MY point, not some straw man hobby horse that you are pulling out of thin air. I’m baffled as to how you have come to the conclusion that Me=Unions on any point, as I generally do not agree with many union policies, thus the fact that I do not belong to one.

  26. PS. I am perfectly willing to admit that there are better teachers than I am out there. In fact, I know there are. I work with some of them.

  27. SteveLaBonne says:

    “PS. I am perfectly willing to admit that there are better teachers than I am out there. In fact, I know there are. I work with some of them.”

    But you’re opposed to having them be recognized in any way by your school. And you pretend to be immune to the pecuniary motivations that work on lesser mortals. You might as well belong to the union since you’ve fully internalized its ideology.

  28. I’m not opposed to having them recognized if they feel it is important to them. As a school, we’ve decided it is not important. If, as a school, we decide otherwise, I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter to me. I don’t think it matters in terms of instructional quality.

    I’m not sure how I’ve internalized the idealogy of the unions if the unions say more pay=better teachers, and I’m saying that within certain parameters, in general, pay will not have any effect on instructional quality. The same people will choose teaching as a profession.

    And yes, I am most firmly stating that giving me more money would not improve my teaching. I already teach to the best of my ability. Many things will improve my teaching, but salary isn’t one of them.

  29. jeff wright says:

    Try it another way. Don’t call it a bonus—although bonuses are common in many walks of life—call it “merit pay” or something similar. Consider that many professionals performing in non-governmental jobs sit in a broad pay band for for folk doing essentially the same work. At my last place of employment—large engineering company—the pay band for my salary grade (senior manager) went from $75K to $120K (this was in 1995).

    Pay differences within grade were based on a number of factors: experience, what it took to hire the individual, his/her negotiating skills, etc. Bosses then, based on where the individual was in the salary band, had an opportunity to give larger merit raises to folks lower in the salary band. Those who were topped out could only get a cost-of-living raise. It seemed to work pretty well, at least at this level, because the odds were the employee wouldn’t go further in the company (pyramid effect for promotions to the next levels, director and VP). Theoretically, after a given number of years, and assuming no turnover, everybody would be at the top level or would have been promoted. There was, accordingly, significant incentive to perform at the highest level, at least until one got to the top within the grade, which most people never did due to layoffs, resignations, retirement, etc.

    The military is a little different. Every captain or colonel with the same number of years of service makes the same, just like teachers. However, one is not permitted to eschew competing for promotions; those who make it earn more and those who don’t make it are asked to leave. Talk about incentive to perform well: every 22-year-old lieutenant beginning service is a potential four-star general. That’s where they come from, you know. Even civil service has some incentive because there are often significant promotional opportunities.

    The problem with teaching is that there are no promotions—unless one wants to leave teaching for the administrator track—and there are no broad salary bands, with room for merit increases based on anything other than seniority. A teacher can spend 30 years in the same smelly classroom, teaching the children and grandchildren of earlier students, while receiving the same pay raises as his/her peers, essentially without regard to performance. Teaching needs some sort of merit or incentive system, where the best performers receive greater rewards. Unfortunately, for every Rita who gives her all every day, there is another teacher, who because of seniority rules, makes more than her, while contributing far less. There’s just got to be a way to (1) get rid of the deadwood, and (2) reward the top performer. In addition to more accurately reflecting our free-market system—and not Communism, as the schools are now—this might even prod some of the deadwood into cleaning up their acts. I yearn for the day when it is possible for a teacher with ten years of service to earn more than one with fifteen years. That’s when you’ll start seeing improvement.

    I also understand Rita is not a union member. Nor am I, credentialed teacher that I am. It makes no difference, however, because the non-union teacher is not a free agent. His/her pay and annual increases are right in line with what the union has negotiated. Actually, some of the more activist teachers think folks like me are hypocrites, benefitting from union action, but not paying dues. Maybe they’re right.

  30. First, I somehow omitted my name from the post above responding to Steve. It should be clear that I wrote it, but I’ll claim it here.

    Second, it would be nice, Steve, if you would ever admit error. My argument stands; your new straw man–that some unions won’t admit some teachers are better than others because because they have significant reservations about merit pay–is about as bad a piece of reasoning as I’ve ever seen. In addition, you responded to Rita’s request that you come up with a real argument rather than a straw man by attributing to her an opinion she has not expressed. EIther learn to think clearly and express yourself based on fact or stop talking. Until you do, you are not worth listening to, as your opinions are apparently based on bile rather than thought.

  31. I see what you’re saying, jeff, and in theory, party of me agrees, because I know extrinsic motivation is important for many people. I’d love to be able to get rid of the deadwood, but I don’t think there’s one top performer in any given school — I think good school culture creates lots of great performers. I don’t think schools should be market-driven entities, however. They may need to move a little in that direction, but education never does anything in moderation, so I go conservative on this one and fear change that could be for the worse. I look at places like East St. Louis, and I don’t think market-driven economies are all they’re cracked up to be. I do agree that one of the major weaknesses is the lack of promotions in teaching. My options are to become dept. head or earn the ability to pick and choose my classes (leading to the issue that the best teachers eschew the toughest students, when it should be the other way around). I have noooooo desire to be an administrator. Perhaps salary bands might be a partial solution. It would be an interesting experiment. It might bankrupt the school district, though.

  32. Steve LaBonne says:

    Michael, try reading Jeff’s comment; perhaps he’ll succeed in getting past the mental block that makes you unable to actually address my points. Here’s the most important quote:
    “I yearn for the day when it is possible for a teacher with ten years of service to earn more than one with fifteen years. That’s when you’ll start seeing improvement.”

    We parents and taxpayers yearn for that day, too.

  33. Steve LaBonne says:

    Rita, the market economy is what generates the wealth that enables your salary to be paid. Attempts over the past century to put an alternative into practice had unpromising results, to put it mildly.

  34. Steve, did I SAY that we should abandon market economies? Are you LDRC in addition to GT? If you are, let me know, cuz I’m trained to make accomodations for that, and then maybe we could have a meaningful dialog.

  35. Steve, Jeff’s comment had not appeared when I was writing my comment, so I did not have the chance to read it until just now, which I did at your suggestion. I agree with much of what he had to say. You, on the other hand, seem to have trouble understanding that you do not make consistent arguments or intelligible points. Just because you are thinking about something while you are typing does not mean you have actually written it. My “mental block,” as you put it, is an unwillingness to argue with faulty logic, shifting premises, and manufactured evidence, I absolutely refuse to address your points until you actually make one.

  36. As to merit pay, I think there’s a difference between, “Rita, you’re doing a terrific job, and we’re going to give you more money,” and “Gosh, Rita, if you can get two more kids to pass their exit exams, we’ll give you a bonus!” Like, OK, then, she’ll start trying.

  37. Steve LaBonne says:

    Laura, I agree. But the distinction is not quite so absolute- to mean anything, the evalutation of merit has to take into account precisely (though not exclusively) criteria such as how many kids pass their exit exam. And I don’t think, human nature being what it is, there is anything so absurd about the idea that an already good teacher could be motivated to make that little extra push if a specific goal of that kind were in sight. If any of us think we’re really working flat-out to the utmost of our capacity all the time, we’re engaging ina bit of self-delusion.

    Rita- I referred to your remark that “I look at places like East St. Louis, and I don’t think market-driven economies are all they’re cracked up to be.” Perhaps you had forgotten you wrote that? People with short-term memory problems of that kind ought not to crack jokes about others. 😉 East St. Louis will become a better place, not when we conclude that “market-driven economies are all they’re cracked up to be”, but when we figure out how to get more of its residents to function in that economy.