Initiative Boosts AP Passing Scores, Group Says (Curriculum Matters)

The National Math and Science Initiative, an effort to increase Advanced Placement participation, particularly among disadvantaged students, appears to be showing results, according to testing information compiled by the organization.

The number of students passing AP math, science, and English tests among schools taking part in NMSI rose by 51 percent over the past year, according to information compiled by the initiative from 67 high schools across six states.

The NMSI, which I wrote about a few years ago, seeks to boost AP participation in a number of distinct ways, one of which is to provide financial incentives to participating teachers. The program also provides extensive training for educators on how to lead AP classes. NMSI, which is headquartered in Dallas and has significant corporate backing, grew out of a similiar program to increase participation in the college-prep courses, run in schools in and around that city. The CEO of the initiative is Tom Luce, a former top education official in President George W. Bush's administration.

A major focus of the organization is to increase access to AP courses in schools where those classes previously did not exist or were limited—and to replicate NMSI's approach on a national scale, in many states. (The program's system of rewarding educators with extra pay has in some cases drawn the opposition of teachers' unions.) A second piece of NMSI seeks to replicate the teacher-training strategies used by the UTeach program at the University of Texas at Austin.

NMSI officials say the latest AP results show participating schools increasing the number passing scores by African American and Hispanic students by an average of 71 percent and by women by 55 percent. The rise in the number of passing scores among minority students were even higher in individual states, NMSI officials say.

Those test score results "show that the combination of enhanced teacher training, teacher incentives, student scholarships, more time on task for students, and master teacher mentoring can dramatically increase the number of students succeeding in college-level work," the organization said in a statement.

Alabama state officials were scheduled to discuss the impact of NMSI in their state at an event today. See the initiative's Web site for more information on the AP results among participating schools.

I really like the multidimensional approach of NMSI...

(1) increase minority participation in AP
(2) provide teachers with better training for those courses (including access to master teachers)
(3) provide financial incentives for teachers to participate
(4) provide student scholarships for successful completion (as opposed to cash $$$ like some other programs in NYC and Boston)

Improving education isn't a 'magic bullet' (or 'shamwow' for that matter) kind of situation. We need multi-faceted approaches like NMSI that understand that education is a complex system. I can't speak for the numbers that NMSI is posting, but they look promising...