Monday, December 27, 2010

What could you do with an extra $10,000 +/student?

Let me start by saying that I think that any program designed to help promote the scholastic development of struggling school systems is a noble cause and one that deserves prudently evaluated based on its intended goals and mission.  As I am not in any way involved in the operation of the program described in Times-Picayune article, Advanced Placement classes fail to take hold at two New Orleans high schools, I cannot speak of the daily operation and management of the program.  On the other hand, I am compelled to respond based on the information presented in this article.

I encourage you to read the entire article, but here are a few highlights:

“AdvanceNOLA began administering AP classes in spring 2009 with a $1.6 million grant from the ExxonMobil Foundation.”

“In part because many high schools are just starting to implement college preparatory curriculums, passing rates have been extremely low…”

“Of 158 students enrolled in AdvanceNOLA classes last year, only three passed an AP exam.”

“…passing is not the only or even the primary goal of the program, proponents say. AdvanceNOLA students receive extra tutoring and tours of the Tulane University campus. They are treated to Saturday restaurant dinners and are chauffeured to the AP exam in limousines.”

“Students receive $300 from the program for getting a score of at least 3 out of 5 on an exam -- the minimum needed to receive college credit -- and teachers also receive $300 for each student who passes.”

A few thoughts:

  • I am completely sure how much it costs to implement AP courses.  I know it involves teacher training, curriculum development, etc.  $1.6 million divided by 158 students = $10,126.58 per student.  That is ALOT of money for a program that only passed 1.9% of its participants.
  • College prep curriculums involve much more than introducing AP courses.  These results will only improve as system wide improvements are made, and these results will only gradually improve.
  • I wonder how many graduates actually end up attending Tulane – which could be a benefit of the featured campus visits.
  • Saturday dinners in New Orleans can be a little pricey (I know this from having lived there for years).  Limousine rides are always expensive.  I’m not sure I see any connection between the two and improving student outcomes.  If the goal is to improve morale, then why mask the intentions with the AP/college prep front?
  • The financial incentive obviously has not made much of an impact on scores.

Plenty of money and, I’m sure, some very good intentions are at work here, but I wonder if more value could be found with an additional $1.6 million to improve schools?  Maybe not, but the results reported in this article suggest that the investment is not adding much value.

Another link to the entire article can be found below.

Advanced Placement classes fail to take hold at two New Orleans high schools | NOLA.com

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