- Tennessee's Clarksville-Montgomery County School System has incentivized Advanced Placement (AP) participation and performance by offering entry into a competition for prizes that include cars and gift cards for students scoring a 3 or higher on exams, District Administration reports.
- Since launching its "AP Pass and Go!" contest, AP student participation has risen from 883 in 2008 to 1,182 in 2017, with the pass rate rising from 34% (297 students) to 50% (647 students) over the same period. The national average pass rate, the article notes, is 20%.
- Key to the program were partnerships with local businesses, with dealership Wyatt Johnson Automotive Group, Domino's and Beach Oil Company among businesses contributing to the prize pool alongside funding raised by the district's education foundation through a variety of events.
The right set of incentives can absolutely impact performance. It's a lesson that stretches beyond education into the business world, where stretch goals on quarterly quotas might be met with a company-funded vacation, gift cards or another prize. And for a high-schooler, what better incentive is there than the potential of a new car?
Of course, it's difficult for most districts to provide that sort of potential prize on their own, even with fundraising events. Luckily, many local businesses are likely interested in building more goodwill in the community by contributing. Those who lives in the Clarksville-Montgomery district and value education and community engagement, and then learn that a specific dealership donated not just to that contest but also to professional development, for example, are likely to shop there for their next car.
That alone is enough of a pitch to facilitate many partnerships within the community, but businesses' investment in local education can also benefit them when they need workers — whether that be high-schoolers working after-school jobs or skilled graduates entering the labor force. Those businesses seeking skilled workers in particular can benefit from growing support for career and technical education opportunities, and high school apprenticeships and internships. Ultimately, these partnerships build a stronger-knit community in which everyone benefits.