OP-ED on Incentives in Public Education
The following is an op/ed piece by State Senator Bob Deuell, (R-Greenville)
INCENTIVES IN EDUCATION ALREADY WORKING
Recently, Governor Perry proposed using certain financial incentives for teachers in our public schools as a way of improving the quality of instruction for our children. This proposal was met with much praise and no small amount of criticism.
While I have many of my own ideas regarding incentives, I applaud the Governor for putting the issue on the table. Also, I fail to understand the criticism of using this approach.
Incentives need to be a significant part of the public school educational program, just as they are at home and in the workplace. Why not education? In fact, there are incentive programs in Texas related to college advance placement which show, without a doubt, that incentives work.
Two of our most successful education programs in Texas are Advance Placement incentive programs. Advanced Placement consists of college-level courses taught in high school. The College Board in New York sponsors the program and provides outstanding training for AP teachers. Students who pass AP exams earn college credit in over 2900 U.S. colleges and universities.
One of the incentive programs in managed by AP Strategies, a non-profit organization that relies on private donors to fund incentives for teachers and students in their communities. AP and Pre-AP teachers, grades 6-12, receive stipends for training, they generally receive $1000 salary stipends and $100 bonus for each AP exam score of three or over. In low-performing schools, teachers' stipends are $2000, with exam bonuses of up to $500 per student. Students receive $100 to $300 for each passing AP exam score. Half of the $80 exam fee is paid for all students and the full fee is paid for passing scores.
The other successful program is the Texas Advanced Placement Incentive Program, funded by the Texas Legislature to reward students, teachers and campuses for performance on AP exams. Under this program, AP and Pre-AP teachers in grades 9 to 12 receive $450 to attend the College Board week-long summer institutes for content training in their discipline. The state pays $30 toward the cost of all exams and $45 in exam fees for needy students. Schools receive a reward of $95 for each student who passes at least one AP exam. These funds may reward AP teachers or be used to strengthen the AP program in that school.
Both programs are voluntary and open to all students. Both focus on improving the teachers' knowledge of content. The programs link financial incentives to the high standards and measurable results of AP. While incentives are structured differently in each program, the results are the same: improved student performance.
AP Strategies manages incentive programs in 66 high schools in Texas with impressive results:
- _ In Dallas ISD the pass rate of minority students in AP math, science and english exams is over three times the U.S. average. In just one Dallas School, the School of Science and Engineering, in each of the last two years more African-American and Hispanic students have passed AP calculus than in any other high school in the nation, public or private.
- _ In the Tyler high schools, students achieved a 96% increase in two years in AP passing scores in college-level math, science and English. In John Tyler High School, with its predominant African-American enrollment, the increase was 136% during the same period.
- _ In Amarillo, in three years, the number of passing scores in all AP subjects increased 191%.
- _ And in all AP Strategies schools, passing scores for women are up significantly on AP math and science exams.
Under the state-funded AP incentive program, all Texas students have an opportunity to reap these same benefits and increasing numbers are benefiting each year.
- _ Seventy-one percent of Texas public high schools offer AP courses, compared to only 66% nationally.
- _ Since 1997 the number of AP exams taken by Texas students has grown 173%.
- _ Passing scores have increased dramatically from 33,000 to 77,000 during the same period.
The data from these two programs clearly documents that incentives work. They work for all types of students, regardless of geography, gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status. Incentives work in all types of schools, in all disciplines.
Incentives for teachers work. The more highly-trained the teacher, the higher their students pass rate on AP exams. Incentives for teachers work in other ways. They attract outstanding teachers to under-performing schools and hard-to-teach subjects.
With the right combination of incentives to reward teachers and students for performance, Texas is beginning to fulfill the promise of all students graduating from high school prepared to enter college and earn a degree. This will also serve students who do not attend college and begin their career out of high school. If the schools in your community are not training outstanding AP teachers and rewarding them for results, you may want to ask why.
Senator Robert F. Deuell, a practicing family physician from Greenville, represents District Two in the Texas Senate. Thanks to the O'Donnell Foundation for providing research.