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Corporate tax credit rolled into literacy bill

The state  Senate bill limiting social promotion and ending teacher tenure emerged in a House committee with two more appendages, a tax credit for businesses and a proposal to promote Advanced Placement tests. 

The 100 percent state tax credit for businesses that contribute to private school scholarships drew considerable attention. The House Education Committee asked questions about the bill and listened to public comment, but did not vote. 

The tax credit was criticized by public school leaders and advocates who said it would take money and support form the public school system. Rockingham County Superintendent Rodney Shotwell said the tax credit amounted to "a full-scale assault on public education."

State-paid Advanced Placement gets a nod

A House committee endorsed an arrangement that would have the state pay for students' Advanced Placement tests and give bonuses to teachers whose students earn good scores. 

Price tag: $11.7 million. That's $7.17 million for the test fees, $2.9 million for teacher bonuses, and $1.5 million for teacher professional development. Teachers would receive a $50 bonus for each student who receives a 3 or higher on an AP test. Most colleges give course credit to students who enter earn a 3, 4, or 5 on a test. 

NC budget consider list: paying for AP tests

A House education committee heard a pitch today from an employee of the College Board, the company that produces the SAT and Advanced Placement tests, about a plan to have the state pay students' test fees and pay teachers a bonus for each student that scores 3 or higher on tests. 

Students who score 3 or higher on AP tests can usually earn college credit for their courses.  

David Gupta, executive director of the Florida Partnership of the College Board, talked about how the program has worked in Florida since it was adopted in 2000. 

AP test-taking has increased rapidly there, from about 66,000 tests in 2000 to 278,720 tests in 2010. AP test-taking expanded 17 percent a year in the first three years. The state has more scores of 3 or higher. 

Florida is the only state with a program of this kind, Gupta said. 

In North Carolina, AP test-taking expanded about 4.3 percent a year over the last decade. 

Estimated costs for North Carolina students' tests ranged from about $4.4 million to about $5 million in 2012-2013, depending on how many students participate. Teacher bonus costs range from about $3 million to $3.3 million.  Bonuses would be capped at $2,000 a teacher.

Florida also pays additional costs for professional development, student assessments, and other services. 

Raising the percentage of students who successfully complete AP courses means more will have college credit when the graduate from high school, said Rep. Hugh Blackwell, a co-chairman of the House Select Committee on Education Reform. 

The Florida numbers illustrate across-the-board growth, including among Hispanic and African-American students, said Blackwell, a Burke County Republican. 

Legislators will have many requests for education money: Governor's School alumni want the summer enrichment program reinstated. Likewise, the Teaching Fellows program wants to survive. School districts want cuts already built into next year's budget reduced. 

Legislators will have to decide whether the AP program is more promising than something else the state is paying for, Blackwell said. 

"I don't know if we'll find the money," he said. "It seems to me a very positive sort of thing."

N.C. test scores beat national average

More than 17 percent of the state's 2009 high school graduates scored a 3 or higher on at least one Advanced Placement exam, outpacing the percentage of students nationally who performed that well.

Across the country, 15.9 percent of students scored at least a 3 on a test in which 5 is the highest score, Lynn Bonner reports.

AP tests are a gauge of how many students take challenging courses in high school. Colleges and universities routinely offer students college credit for AP courses on which they receive a score of 3 or higher. White students are overrepresented among AP test-takers, while black students are underrepresented, say data released Wednesday by the College Board.  (Read more.)

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