Indiana students who enroll in AP courses and pass the exams will enjoy more than just a sense of accomplishment and potential college credit. Using a $7 million grant, 33 schools around the state will now pay students $100 for every AP test they pass with at least a 3. Their teachers will get an identical bonus.
The news has certainly heartened students who were already planning to take AP classes and exams in the coming year. One student explained that he was excited that his efforts might net him as much as $200 now, especially since this is something he was planning to do anyway. As much as Indiana wishes to encourage students like him, the real targets of the program are kids who were not planning to enroll in AP courses but who might change their minds in hopes of a payout.
The selected high schools will split nearly $7 million over five years thanks to the University of Notre Dame and the National Math and Science Initiative grant aimed at increasing enrollment in AP courses across the state, especially in math and science.
Karen Morris, the Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program in Indiana coordinator at Notre Dame, said the privately funded program uses a "business model" in the classroom that rewards success with cash.
Morris thinks that overall, $100 per passed AP test isn't really that much money, especially since encouraging students to challenge themselves is likely to pay off in the long run.
Indiana isn't the first state to try this pay-for-passing scheme. In Dallas, a similar program has been running since mid-2000s. Now, schools in Alabama, Massachusetts, Virginia, Arkansas, Connecticut and Kentucky are also taking part.
In addition to Indiana, this year will be the first time that these kinds of bonuses will be offered in Colorado schools. Also, 200 schools located on military bases around the country will also begin using the promise of an incentive to get their students to enroll in AP courses.
But critics say paying students for school work doesn't lead to long-term gains. They often cite a Stanford University experiment from the 1970s that found preschoolers who were told in advance they would be rewarded with gold stars for drawing a picture became less likely to draw for fun later on.
And the Dallas incentive program posted small gains of 8 percent in enrollment in AP courses and a less than 1 percent increase in the number of students who passed the tests.