MIDDLEBURG – About 20 students lined up on the football field Friday evening at Middleburg High School, but they weren’t playing football, or performing in the marching band. They were being …
MIDDLEBURG – About 20 students lined up on the football field Friday evening at Middleburg High School, but they weren’t playing football, or performing in the marching band. They were being celebrated for academic achievement and some handed checks for as much as $200.
The students received cash incentives provided by a grant from the National Math and Science Initiative, an organization that funded a college preparatory program in the Clay County School District at just over $4 million to be used during the course of three years.
The program urges students to enroll in Advanced Placement courses, and upon passing those courses, awards the student $100 for each class they make it through with a GPA of 3.0 or above. Teachers are paid $100 for each of their student who makes it through an AP course. Though the cash incentives help entice kids to enroll in upper-level classes, they aren’t the only thing the grant provides.
“The ultimate goal is to encourage STEM related AP classes,” said Justin Williams Middleburg High vice principal and NMSI coordinator. “They set out to achieve that goal by providing training for teachers and students. They also provide money to schools to fulfill the needs that need to be met in order to properly host AP courses.”
Middleburg received about $8,200 of the $4 million total this year for materials and cash incentives, which paid out about 70 students at the school, according to Williams.
The grant is in its second year, with the 2018-2019 school year being the last chance for students and teachers to take advantage of the funding, but the district saw results after the inaugural year.
Superintendent Addison Davis said that in the first year, 772 students enrolled in AP courses district-wide. That was an increase of about 70 students from the previous year. This year he expects that number to go up even more. Davis said that while the program gets results with cash incentives, the ultimate goal is what makes the program so attractive at the district level.
“They’ve done this in other counties throughout the nation and see significant lifts in the number of students who are prepared to pass AP exams. They provide extensive professional development to AP teachers throughout the year to increase content knowledge,” he said. “But there’s no harm in incentivizing, it’s attractive to the kids and it encourages them to succeed.”
Davis said they will keep an eye on NMSI and apply for some of their other grants and programs in the future.
Middleburg senior Kaley Petrosky, 17, stood on the track at the edge of the football field talking with friends, holding a big check in her hands made out to her for $100.
“There was never money before, but the college credit was worth it,” said Petrosky. “But with [NMSI] you get a little extra.”
After graduating, Petrosky plans to attend Florida State University to study business administration.
Standing with his students just before the group was welcomed onto the field at the start of halftime, Middleburg High Principal Roger Dailey spoke about the group of students behind him, checks in hand, fresh out of last semester’s AP courses.
“I’ll support any added incentive to motivate kids to focus on things that are long term and beneficial – we need that,” Dailey said. “It validates their hard work.”