Do Pay-for-Grades Programs Work for African American High School Students?

In a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research,  C. Kirabo Jackson an assistant professor at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University, examines public school programs that reward students with money for doing well in Advanced Placement courses. Their teachers are also rewarded with increased pay.

The Advanced Placement Incentive Program run by AP Strategies, a nonprofit organization based in Dallas, provides teachers between $100 and $500 for each AP score of 3 or over earned by a high school junior or senior enrolled in their course. Students receive between $100 and $500 for each score of 3 or above in an eligible subject for which they took the course. Private donors pay for roughly 70 percent of the total costs, and the school districts cover the remainder. AP Strategies selects schools with large numbers of minority and low-income students for participation in the program and helps them find donors to fund the effort.

Dr. Jackson’s research found that students in these pay-for-good-grades programs attended college in greater numbers, were more likely to remain in college beyond their first year, were more likely to earn a college degree, were more likely to be employed and earn higher wages.

Dr. Jackson states that “this is the first credible evidence that implementing college-preparatory programs in existing urban schools can improve both the long-run educational and labor market outcomes of disadvantaged students.”

Dr. Jackson is a graduate of Yale University. After earning his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 2007, he taught at Cornell University for two years before joining the faculty at Northwestern in 2010.


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