New college readiness program pays students for good grades

Research shows that students who complete Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams in high school enter college better prepared. For this reason, the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) organization aims to increase AP statistics across the country, paying particular attention to science, technology, engineering and math education. NMSI kicked off a partnership with Garland ISD in 2014-15, thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the Texas Instruments Foundation.

“We are extremely grateful that Texas Instruments made this initiative possible,” said Jovan Wells, associate superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment. “Working with NMSI not only strengthens the district’s focus on college readiness, it also gives us the opportunity to recognize the hard work of students and staff.”

Lakeview Centennial, Naaman Forest, North Garland and South Garland high schools launched GISD's new College Readiness Program, which began with content-focused teacher training. Ongoing support, AP test prep, practice exams and administration fees were also included. The district hosted several Saturday study sessions throughout the year inviting students from all seven high schools. In addition to reinforcing skills learned in the classroom and offering test-taking tips, attendees were also treated to pizza and the chance to win door prizes at each meeting.

“We had 3,298 students attend the study sessions. That translated to 14,328 sets of handouts and 12,824 slices of pizza,” commented NMSI Program Manager Toni Schneider.

During the first year, students at Lakeview, Naaman, North Garland and South Garland took nearly 1,850 math, science and English AP exams. This marks a 67 percent increase over previous years. Those campuses also saw a 51 percent increase in the number of students earning a 3 or higher on their exams.

“We are very, very proud of our staff and students for their accomplishments and constant drive for greater achievements,” said North Garland Principal Glenda Williams.

NMSI schools hold a pep rally in the fall to recognize student success. Special cheers, decorations and dances all accompany presentations of checks, paying $100 per passing score. First-year honorees earned more than $45,000, with students receiving up to $800 each. 

GISD experienced another AP participation increase in 2015-16. An additional $537,000 grant from the Texas Instruments Foundation also brings the NMSI program to Garland, Rowlett and Sachse high schools in 2016-17.