At South High Community School, a mostly low-income school in Worcester, Massachusetts, eight times as many students take Joe Nystrom’s AP Statistics classes. The pass rate has climbed from 50 percent to 70 percent.
South High students said Mr. Nystrom and his colleagues had transformed the culture of a tough urban school, making it cool for boys with low-slung jeans who idolize rappers like Lil Wayne to take the hardest classes.
They were helped by the National Math and Science Initiative, a nonprofit network that provided laboratory equipment and special training for teachers and organized afternoon tutoring and Saturday sessions. It also paid $100 each to students who scored a 3 or above on the A.P. exam — and to their teachers, who can also earn additional rewards. Because 43 of his students passed the exam this year, far above his target, Mr. Nystrom will add a $7,300 check to his $72,000 salary.
Kristopher Santana, son of a customer service rep, earned a perfect 5 on the AP Statistics exam after atttending 18 hours of Saturday classes organized by the initiative, and Nystrom’s twice-weekly, after-school tutoring sessions. The $100 was “a great extra,” he says.
This year, 308 schools in six states are participating in the program.
Brian Leonard, who teaches AP calculus and statistics at Lake Hamilton High School in Arkansas, earned a$12,500 bonus for 65 students who passed exams. Three years ago, the high school had only nine AP math students, all the children of educated professionals. Now students from a range of backgrounds are taking AP math — and passing the exam.