Incentivized education

Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - 19:00
Kids can cash in for making the grade
Students walk down the hallway at Chugiak High during a freshman orientation program Aug. 9. Scool begins for most Anchorage School District students Aug. 21.

The expression “school is your job” will take on a whole new meaning this year for some Eagle River High students.

ERHS students who pass the AP exam in English, math and/or science at the end of the year with a score of 3 or higher will be paid $100 per passing grade.

The school is participating in the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), whose goal is to improve students’ performance in science, technology, engineering and math.

This year, NMSI targeted 50 schools with large populations of military dependants, said ERHS principal Marty Lang. Bartlett High is also participating in the program.

A public-private partnership, NMSI is funded by a slew of donors such as Exxon Mobil Corporation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Lockheed Martin and the Boeing Company.

Student incentives aren’t limited to payouts. NMSI pays half of the AP exam fee for each student, Lang said, and foots the entire bill for students who receive free or reduced-price meals.

“That removes the economic barrier,” he said.

Teachers also stand to make financial gains from the program. AP teachers will be paid $100 per student who pass the math, science or English exams with a 3 or higher.

Teachers must provide 40 hours of before-or-after-school tutoring throughout the year for their AP students.

NMSI also provides teachers with AP training. In June, six ERHS teachers attended a seminar put on by College Board in Oklahoma City, Okla.

“It was very, very good training,” said AP English teacher Clinton Holloway.

In spring 2014, Holloway and his colleagues are headed to Dallas to witness how AP exams are graded. The simulation will provide teachers a better understanding of the test by getting a look at the assessment end, Lang said.

NMSI is also putting on three presentations during the year for Eagle River and Bartlett students and teachers, Lang said.

Holloway has mixed feelings on the cash incentives. It’s good encouragement for students, said Holloway, who suspects more kids will opt to take the exam.

“They don’t get paid to play per say,” Holloway said. “You have to pass the exam. I think that will be a powerful motivation.”

Professionally, it’s a little different.

The AP teachers who can benefit financially only have their students for one year, Holloway said. Previous teachers who prepared those students to take AP courses don’t see a dime, he said.

However, NMSI offers pre-AP training, and ERHS pre-honors teachers attended it this summer in Wasilla, Lang said.

Holloway is also concerned that the school’s other AP teachers are excluded. (Lang said that though NMSI only focuses on math, science and English he plans to support the other AP courses internally). But, NMSI is still a good program, Holloway said, and should benefit Eagle River.

“It’s going to really improve our school’s program,” he said. “There’s a lot of built in support.”

A former AP teacher, Lang is hopeful NMSI will encourage more students to not only take AP courses, but also take and pass the exam.

Eagle River High has built strong academic programs since opening its doors less than a decade ago, Holloway said. The National Math and Science Initiative only adds to the school’s standing, he said.

“This is just going to lend weight to that well-deserved reputation,” Holloway said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be an intense and meaningful year of growth.”

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