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State lands $13.2 million grant
Alabama 1 of 7 states to get National Math and Science Initiative funds

By Desiree Hunter
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The "For" line on the oversized $13.2 million check simply reads "AP Training and Incentive Grant," but there's a lot more officials would have crammed onto the space if they had the room.

It could also read: For Alabama students who don't have as many opportunities as others. For helping more young people achieve a college education. For boosting the self-esteem of the state — and its students.

Alabama is one of seven states to have been awarded a National Math and Science Initiative grant, State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton said at a news conference Thursday.

Partly funded by ExxonMobil Corp., the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the award from the Dallas-based initiative is the largest private grant the state's K-12 system has ever received.

"We're breaking new ground here today," Morton said.

The plan is to offer more Advanced Placement courses for high school students, beginning in schools that do not have them now, and to increase performance on AP exams in math, science and English.

Carol Crawford, who currently coordinates AP courses for the education department, said the first of the six years will be spent on planning, with expanded class offerings be-
ginning in fall 2008 in Jefferson and Montgomery County schools.

More than half of the state's 400 high schools have the courses, and the program's initial goal is to add them to 80 more schools, but that's just for starters, Crawford said.

"Every child should have this opportunity," she said. "That's our ultimate goal — every school."

The A+ College Ready program will be formed with the grant and based at the A+ Education Foundation in Montgomery, a nonprofit that seeks to enhance student achievement in Alabama's K-12 system.

The A+ Education Foundation partnered on the project with Morton, Gov. Bob Riley, the Alabama Power Foundation and the Alabama Mathematics, Science and Technology Education Coalition.

More Alabama students have been taking AP courses and exams in recent years and the number of those scoring a three, four, or five — which generally earns college credit — jumped by 16.6 percent in the last school year.

The number of AP exam takers in Alabama public schools increased 23.3 percent in the 2006-07 school year compared to a 9.5 percent increase nationwide, Morton said.

There was also a 44 percent increase in the number of black students taking the test, which is almost double the national increase, he said.

Crawford said a lot of that increase is because more schools have gotten AP classes through the state's ACCESS Distance Learning program and teachers have been working to encourage students to enroll.

For students who aren't sure if AP courses are right for them, they might be swayed knowing the classes could beef up their wallets along with their brains.

"Some of the incentives might come as scholarships and in some cases it could be cash," Crawford said.

"We're going to be talking to schools and students during the planning phases to see what they'd like the incentives to be."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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