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State to begin offering cash incentive for high test scores on AP Computer Science A exam

A student at Conway High School completes coursework for the AP Computer Science A class, a program now being offered cash incentives for students to score well on the AP exam. (Photo: KATV)

The Arkansas Department of Education is upping the ante when it comes to the state's push to urge students to pursue computer education. Starting next year, ADE will begin offering cash incentives to encourage students to score well on the Advanced Placement Computer Science A exam.

The class the incentive program applies to is only offered at roughly 50 of Arkansas's nearly 400 public and charter schools. The tiered incentive program doesn't apply to the AP Computer Science Principles exam, a class more readily available at schools across the state.

Conway High School is one of those schools that offers both courses. According to College Board, the organization that administers the Advanced Placement program and tests like the PSAT and SAT, AP Computer Science Principles course focuses on "the broader aspects of computing, including computing with large-scale data, the Internet, and cybersecurity," while the Computer Science A course focuses "on computing skills related to programming in Java."

The majority of students like Cole Hoover, a senior in Conway High's Computer Science A class, are already interested in pursuing a future high-tech career.

"I really like computer engineering because it combines the programming aspect of computer science," said Hoover. "But also electrical engineering is something I'm interested in."

Students that score high on the AP test can typically receive college credit for the course, but now with high test scores students and schools can also score some cold hard cash from ADE.

"We at the department really feel like this is a way that Arkansas can step up and show even more dedication, more commitment to this coding initiative and show its benefits to students," said Johnny Key, Arkansas Education Commissioner.

If a student scores a five on the test - the highest score - the student will receive $1,000 and the student's school will receive $250. Students that achieve a four on the test get $750 and the school receives $150. Kids who score a three on the exam will get $250 with their school receiving $50.

According to a memo from ADE, the awards won't likely be handed out until after Summer 2018. ADE anticipates allocating up to $150,000 for the initial computer science cash initiative program - the money coming from the department's computer science initiative budget, according to department officials.

While the money is certainly enticing, most of the Conway students currently taking the class say they're already shooting for a high score.

"I'm always aiming for the five," said Tanner Ruth, a senior enrolled in five AP courses this year. "But I'm not going to turn down a thousand bucks if somebody gives it to me."

Commissioner Key told KATV he's hopeful the incentive program will encourage students to "step up" and "take that higher AP course". Key acknowledged that not every school offers the AP Computer Science A class, but hopes the incentive program encourages students where the class isn't being offered to ask their administrators to begin offering the program.

The following is a list of schools that currently offers the AP Computer Science A program:

HAMBURG HIGH SCHOOL

MOUNTAIN HOME CAREER ACADEMIES

BENTONVILLE HIGH SCHOOL

GENTRY HIGH SCHOOL CONVERSION CHARTER

ROGERS HIGH SCHOOL

ROGERS HERITAGE HIGH SCHOOL

ROGERS NEW TECHNOLOGY HIGH SCHOOL

SILOAM SPRINGS HIGH SCHOOL CONVERSION CHARTER

OMAHA HIGH SCHOOL

ARKADELPHIA HIGH SCHOOL

MORRILTON SR. HIGH SCHOOL

THE ACADEMIES AT JONESBORO HIGH SCHOOL

VAN BUREN HIGH SCHOOL

MARION HIGH SCHOOL

DUMAS HIGH SCHOOL

CONWAY HIGH SCHOOL

GREENBRIER HIGH SCHOOL

GLEN ROSE HIGH SCHOOL

MAGNET COVE HIGH SCHOOL

CEDAR RIDGE HIGH SCHOOL

CLARKSVILLE HIGH SCHOOL

LAFAYETTE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL

STAR CITY HIGH SCHOOL

J.D. LEFTWICH HIGH SCHOOL

PARIS HIGH SCHOOL

ODEN HIGH SCHOOL

DOVER HIGH SCHOOL

POTTSVILLE HIGH SCHOOL

HAZEN HIGH SCHOOL

CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL

HALL HIGH SCHOOL

NORTH LITTLE ROCK HIGH SCHOOL

LISA ACADEMY HIGH

LISA ACADEMY NORTH HIGH CHARTER SCHOOL

ESTEM HIGH CHARTER

PREMIER HIGH SCHOOL OF LITTLE ROCK

WALDRON HIGH SCHOOL

SOUTHSIDE HIGH SCHOOL

GREENWOOD HIGH SCHOOL

MANSFIELD HIGH SCHOOL

DEQUEEN HIGH SCHOOL

EL DORADO HIGH SCHOOL

FAYETTEVILLE HIGH SCHOOL

SPRINGDALE HIGH SCHOOL

HAR-BER HIGH SCHOOL

HAAS HALL ACADEMY

BEEBE HIGH SCHOOL

AUGUSTA HIGH SCHOOL



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