Cash Awards Program for Students Who Score High on Advanced Placement Tests Appears to Be a Success

Two years ago, the nonprofit Council of Urban Professionals began a controversial new program that offers monetary rewards for students in New York City high schools who score at the top ranks on Advanced Placement tests. Under the plan, students must attend three Saturday review sessions before taking an AP test. Those who score a 5 on an AP test receive $1,000. A score of 4 produces a cash award of $750. And students who receive the lowest passing grade of 3 get $500. Critics charge that “bribing” students to perform well academically is not the proper motivation to encourage learning.

But it appears that the program is working. The number of students who achieved passing grades on the AP tests has increased 20 percent in the past two years. And furthermore, all of this increase is attributable to better performance by African-American and Hispanic students.

Overall the program gave out $850,000 in cash awards to New York City high school students this year.