Pay for AP

Paying cash to students and their teachers for passing scores on Advanced Placement tests is boosting achievement in Texas, writes C. Kirabo Jackson in Education Next. The Advanced Placement Incentive Program (APIP) “results in a 30 percent increase in the number of students scoring above 1100 on the SAT or above 24 on the ACT, and an 8 percent increase in the number of students at a high school who enroll in a college or university in Texas.”

My evidence suggests that these outcomes are likely the result of stronger encouragement from teachers and guidance counselors to enroll in AP courses, better information provided to students, and changes in teacher and peer norms. The program is not associated with improved high school graduation rates or increases in the number of students taking college entrance exams, suggesting that the APIP improves the outcomes of high-achieving students rather than those students who may not have graduated from high school or even applied to college.

In New York City, students are receiving big bucks for scoring well on AP tests, reports the New York Times. REACH spends more than APIP: Students can get $1,000 for a 5, which is the top score, $750 for a 4 and $500 for a 3. In the first year of the privately funded experiment, more students tackled AP exams, but slightly fewer earned passing scores.

New York City also is paying middle school students for higher test scores. Results will be released in October.

Update: Bribing students is a bad idea whether it boosts scores or not, argues Liam Julian.

About Joanne


  1. What about DC paying students for good attendance/behavior? What values are we teaching children when they get an allowance for doing WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING in school? It seems like cash allotments are just schools way of giving up.

    Hall Monitor

  2. Sounds like a communist response “do what you are supposed to do (for the motherland!)”. Maybe the capitalist response of “more success means more money” has some merit?

  3. I’m making a rough guess that this is about $10/hour. So that’s about 100 hours of work for an AP class/year for the top scorers. Maybe I’m dating myself, but that still sounds like decent compensation. So it would definitely benefit those who might need to work, especially if they took enough AP classes. In the small, I’m sure this will upset people who don’t think they should have to pay other people to do what’s good for them. In the large, I’m at least willing to entertain the possibility that this is enlightened self interest at work.

    For ethical purposes I don’t have a problem with people faking it at first. I suspect that’s how most of learn the value of behaviors — hopefully good ones. And doing well on AP exams is a good behavior, its just the paying part I think that bothers some people.

  4. If we can’t have merit pay for teachers why not try merit pay for students?

  5. The new frontier for unionization!

    If unionized students go on strike for higher pay and a better benefits package will they be considered truant?

    What’s the career potential of paid studentship? studenthood?

    If students are paid and are under the direction of the teacher does that make the teacher management?

    If a paid student fails to meet expectations are they fired or are they flunked? Or both and is there an outline for a TV series in this idea?

  6. While I didn’t get “paid” money for my taking five APs (and passing all of them), I did gain the benefit of avoiding a large number of pack-em-in freshman lecture classes in college, and (along with some college courses taken in summers) entered as nearly a sophomore.

    Do we really want to encourage kids to forget the potential long-term benefits in favor of quick cash? I’d argue that some of our economic problems as a country right now come from too much lusting after “quick cash.”

    Besides, I’m getting really sick of students coming to college with the mentality that they need to be “paid” (in terms of “extra points”) for everything, even showing up for class.

  7. The problem bespeaks itself.

    In my day, learning was its own reward.

    Then came “modern” teaching — and the students/children were treated as lab rats (and this is evident today with my own children): You have a test? You have to be rewarded with a soda or bolstered with candy (i.e., test taking requires sugar). Please disregard all the nutrition information we have provided you throughout the year (we certainly have).

    So, what’s the step up from sugar? “Dollars,” I guess our educational-system gurus have determined.

    I’m no expert (just a parent), but I think research points to the fact that intrinsic rewards work better for learning. At the least, it won’t promote juvenile diabetes (although it may delay youngsters’ recognition of adult/administrative hypocrasy by a few months).

    What a sorry, sorry world is our current educational system.

  8. *shrugs* Sorry, but as a parent and teacher, I can’t work up the enmity for this idea. Don’t get me wrong, I want my kids (and all kids) to wanna learn for the sake of learning; I am a geek when it comes to just wanting to acquire knowledge. However, all the knowledge I’ve acquired doesn’t pay my bills and it doesn’t make me more well liked. From a business perspective, maybe we can shift some of the wasted educational dollars towards student incentive models. There are many worse options being bandied about in the educational community than this.

  9. What about DC paying students for good attendance/behavior? What values are we teaching children when they get an allowance for doing WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING in school? It seems like cash allotments are just schools way of giving up.

    You won’t see anything about it. Michelle Rhea, D.C. school supt., is the darling of the “reform” crowd in that she was a TFA graduate and has little teaching experience, so any idea she has must be great.

  10. Momindant says:

    I don’t have any problem with cash incentives for AP students. In any event, it won’t be an issue in my local Calif public school, because they simply can’t offer enough seats in the AP classes to meet demand. First, they discourage students from taking more than one AP or honors class by saying it’s too difficult. Then, they attempt to restrict enrollment by requiring kids to attend orientation sessions, take AP admissions tests, submit applications, and teacher recommendations. They skim off the top students to fill the available seats. Even this doesn’t work, so they overbook the classes, in the hopes that some kids will fail to complete the lengthy summer pre-assignments. When that fails, they double-schedule students, like my kid, and say “Pick either AP science or AP history, you can’t take both because they are too full.” My kid, fortunately, threw a fit and refused to pick. She ended up with two AP’s plus her honors class. I guess some other, less pushy student got bumped?? So if you can afford it, go ahead and pay kids to take AP’s. Be happy if your district has enough cash to do that. And if you have any spare dollars, send them our way!

  11. Some capable students do not have the support system that encourages them to attempt challenging courses such as Advanced Placement courses. Perhaps this is just the necessary motivation to get them in to the AP track. Of course it won’t really matter if the student is not prepared as they will not earn the “incentive”. I am sure they will learn by the nature of being in a challenging class.

    There has to be other ways of encouraging students that do not traditionally choose AP classes. The money might be a little over the top, but it is an interesting start. It will be interesting to see the final outcome of this policy.

    Mike – Streamlining the AP exam registration process for high schools by allowing students to register for the exams at their school online.