Howard High students, teachers earn money for Advanced Placement success

lfabian@macon.comOctober 29, 2012 

Dozens of Howard High School students, and a handful of teachers, divided nearly $25,000 in rewards for success in Advanced Placement courses last school year.

“It’s nice to be rewarded for making good grades,” said 17-year-old Luke Willis, who plans to save the $200 he took home Monday for passing his AP chemistry and language classes.

Howard is one of just 28 schools in the country -- and the only high school in Georgia -- included in a grant designed to increase participation in AP classes.

In a ceremony Monday morning in the school’s auditorium, community leaders learned the grant helped boost participation by 173 percent and increased qualifying scores by 156 percent.

As part of the National Math Science grant, students get $100 each for every AP English, math or science class for which they get a passing score of 3, 4 or 5. Teachers of AP classes earn $100 for each of their students who gets a passing score. Five of Howard’s AP teachers received an additional $1,000 for hitting their goal for the number of students passing.

Suzanne Spaid, Howard’s designated administrator of the grant, said the rewards come after long hours for students and teachers.

“Each teacher is here three Saturdays, at least, all day,” Spaid said. “Besides that, AP generates so much more reading. It’s a lot of work.”

The teachers also traveled to Texas twice for workshops, she said.

Alexis Collier, now an 18-year-old Lincoln University student, was awarded $300 in absentia for passing three qualifying AP classes.

“I was proud of her before she got the $300,” said Ron Collier, the school system’s finance executive, who picked up his daughter’s check.

She left Howard with 23 credits toward college and is now taking classes with upperclassmen.

The grant, funded by the Northrop Grumman Corp. as part of the National Math and Science Initiative, is for at least $238,000 for three years, beginning with the 2011-12 academic year.

The program is part of the Obama administration’s “Joining Forces” initiative of about 50 programs designed to aid military families.

After Houston County originally rejected the opportunity because it was limited to one school, Howard applied, Spaid said.

Howard only has a few students with military ties, but the program was open to all of its students.

Northrop Grumman program director Keith Yeager said his company believes the public-private partnership to invest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is essential to keeping American students competitive in the global market.

“I hope to be hiring several of you to help defend this country,” Yeager told those students receiving rewards.

Dale Fleury, the senior regional director for the Northrop Grumman program, said the 156 percent increase in qualifying scores is 21 times the national average and 12 times the average in Georgia.

“What you have accomplished in the first year is truly, truly phenomenal,” Fleury said. “It’s a day of celebration and it’s also a day to look ahead to your future, and the future looks extremely bright for you.”

Fleury consoled AP students who did not make the mark last year.

“By taking the course and exam, you’re still better off than those who don’t,” he said.

Bibb Deputy Superintendent Kelley Castlin-Gacutan predicted Advanced Placement students will get into more prestigious colleges.

“Universities look for students who are taking full advantage of the most rigorous curriculum they can,” Castlin-Gacutan said.

In addition to Saturday study sessions and guest instructors, the mock exam helped the qualifying students prepare for success.

“It highlighted my strengths and weaknesses. It gave me hope for the AP exams to come,” said Corrie Jackson, one of two students chosen to address the assembly. “These skills will follow me throughout my career.”

Timothy Lewis cited Howard’s teachers as the greatest asset of the program that he credits with helping him reach his potential.

“The rigor and toughness of Advanced Placement courses gets you ready for the rigor and toughness of college courses,” Lewis said from the podium.

Kevin Lee, 17, hopes to be a computer engineer. He qualified for $200 in bonuses based on his chemistry and language exams.

“The mock exam was a great confidence booster,” Lee said. “It drove me to study harder seeing I could do it.” The money wasn’t too much of a motivator for him.

“To get a good grade was fine for me,” he said.

Katie Thompson, 18, said she wasn’t focused on the money, either, until it was in hand. “It’s like my first paycheck,” said Thompson, who wants to be an architect.

McKinley Jones, 17, hasn’t made up her mind about a career, but does know how she’ll spend her $200.

“I’m going to buy lots of stuff, shoes and clothes.”

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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