Paying Black Students To Perform

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports this morning that “Minority Students Benefit From Incentive-Based College-Prep Programs.”

“Incentive-based” is education-speak for money. A study conducted for the National Bureau of Economic Research

examined the effects of the Advanced Placement Incentive Program, a high-school intervention that provides students and teachers with cash rewards for passing scores on Advanced Placement exams. For scores of at least 3 on a 5-point scale, the program pays students up to $500 and teachers between $100 and $500, with bonuses of up to $1,000.

Students in the program, the study found, were more likely to enroll in college, stay after the first year, earn a bachelor’s degree, have jobs after graduation, and earn higher wages than were students with similar attributes who did not participate.

“Minority students’ participation in AP courses lags behind that of their white classmates,” the Chronicle noted, “according to a report released earlier this month by the College Board.”

The abstract of the report says the pay for grades program was “implemented in inner city schools,” but it does not say whether any non-minority students were paid and, if so, whether they too responded to the “incentive” offered. Other reports of the Advanced Placement Initiative Program, such as this one, say its purpose is to “prepare and encourage at-risk minority and low income students to excel,” or to encourage “minority students at the middle school level to tackle the more rigorous courses” or this one listing courses offered “to rural, minority and low-income students.”

Thus it sounds as though the Department of Education’s Advanced Placement Initiative Program is, at least in some locations, offered to low-income students of all races and to all minorities, whether low-income or not. If that is true, such a program is at least better than the promise of affirmative action, which rewards minority students for doing less well than others.

Any program, however, that is in effect means-tested for everyone except for blacks and Hispanics is still discriminating on the basis of race, something government-funded programs should not do.


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