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Do College-Prep Programs Improve Long-Term Outcomes? (WP-12-12)

Kirabo Jackson

Many new education reforms use cash incentives to promote better student outcomes. The Advanced Placement Incentive Program (APIP) is one example. With private donors financing 70 percent of costs, the APIP trains AP teachers, and motivates both students and teachers by paying substantial cash bonuses for passing scores on AP exams. So does it work? In this working paper, IPR labor economist Kirabo Jackson examines the APIP in Texas, tracking over 290,000 high school students between 1993 and 2008. He compared changes in student outcomes before and after APIP adoption at the 58 participating schools to changes across the same cohorts in comparable schools that did not adopt the APIP. APIP adoption increased taking an AP course by 21 percent and passing an AP exam by 45 percent. More importantly, Jackson finds benefits beyond the program: For those participating in APIP four years after it was adopted, the probability of students persisting in college as sophomores rose by about 20 percent and earnings increased by 3.7 percent. The pay increases erased the Hispanic-white earnings gap and reduced the black-white earnings gap by one third. The results imply a per-pupil lifetime earnings benefit of $16,650 for a cost of $450. Jackson's findings suggest that one can raise achievement for students “consigned” to low-achieving, urban schools—and that high quality college-preparatory programs might be a viable alternative to transferring such students to higher achieving schools.

Kirabo Jackson, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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