The U.S. Department of Education will send Nevada a nearly $300,000 grant to help cover the cost of Advanced Placement exams for low-income students.
A news release announcing the grant on Wednesday states the grant should pay for all but $12 of the cost of each exam, which students can take to earn college credit while in high school.
During a conference call with reporters, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga said only 79 low-income students in Nevada completed advanced placement exams in 2003. That participation climbed to 4,762 low-income students this year, according to Erquiaga.
Additionally, the Nevada Legislature recently approved $1.2 million over the next biennium to increase student participation in advanced courses, with a focus on teacher preparation and grants to improve test passage rates.
“The two have to go hand-in-hand,” Erquiaga said. “It’s not enough to get kids through a program… We want to get them through successfully.”
The College Board, which administers the tests, charged a $91 fee for each exam in 2015, though the organization offered a $29 discount to students from low-income families.
Since 2010, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded Nevada more than $1.9 million to offset the exam fee for low-income students.
Jhone Ebert, chief innovation and productivity officer for the Clark County School District, said the use of that grant money varies from campus to campus and supports district initiatives that identify students for potential placement in advanced courses.
“We’re looking at those student who aren’t taking the courses,” Ebert said. “Why aren’t they enrolling? Do they need to have better preparation to take the courses?
“Did they even know that taking the AP course was an option?”
Across the district, enrollment in advanced placement courses rose from 21,282 in the 2013-14 school year to 24,598 in the 2014-15 school year — a 15.6 percent gain.
The district doesn’t break down those participation rates by income level, but enrollment among American Indian, African American and Hispanic student populations climbed 13.9 percent, 19.4 percent and 21 percent, respectively.
Last month, the College Board honored the district nationally for the number of students taking advanced classes and improving successful scores on advanced placement exams.
In 2014, 55 percent of all advanced placement students earned what is considered a successful score, a 3 or higher out of 5. The district also was credited for increasing student participation in advanced classes by 9 percent annually.
Contact Neal Morton at email@example.com or 702-383-0279. Find him on Twitter: @nealtmorton