2010 REACH Payout

On August 11, 12, 17 and 18, 2010 at a branch of JP Morgan Chase 1,270 REACH Scholars earned over $372,000, based on incentive scholarship awards of $500 for each AP exam score of 5, $400 for each 4 and $300 for each 3 achieved (students who didn’t complete REACH’s free Learn, Earn, Win! (LEW) intensive 21-hour AP prep program earned $150, $125 and $100, respectively).

REACH: Rewarding Achievement, an incentive scholarship education reform initiative sponsored by the Pershing Square Foundation and the Council of Urban Professionals (CUP), announced that students at the 28 New York City high schools fully participating in the REACH program showed a 10% increase in Advanced Placement exams taken and a 4% increase in exams passed, building on the even larger gains shown in the previous year.  In total, over the first two full years of the REACH program, students took 30% more AP exams and passed 27% more.

“Today, we celebrate the accomplishments of 1,270 REACH Scholars, who have worked tirelessly to excel on rigorous Advanced Placement exams,” said Tami Kesselman, Executive Director, REACH. “Their drive and determination to beat the odds and demonstrate mastery of college-level work while still in high school inspire each of us at REACH to continue our mission to close the achievement gap and provide New York City children with greater access to opportunity.”

In addition to the incentive scholarships, a critical element of REACH’s success is helping student prepare for AP exams via Learn, Earn, Win!, a series of three free, intensive, all-day-Saturday prep sessions – 21 hours in total – for each of 15 AP subjects, held in collaboration with Baruch College of The City University of New York (CUNY).  Students who attended all three days of LEW this year had a 41% pass rate vs. only a 19% pass rate for those who did not participate.

On the evening of the award payout and unveiling of the results, there will be the first annual “Take ‘Em to School Poker Challenge”, with all proceeds benefitting REACH. The event, held at the St. Regis Hotel in New York, features world class poker players including Robert Varkonki, Katy Lederer and Joe Reitman, as well as final table dealer Dee Dozier.  Exciting live and silent auction items will help raise funds and add to the festivities.

“In light of the fact that NYC schools suffered 4-5% budget cuts and we had to cut the budget of our program nearly in half, I am pleased that REACH served even more students and not only maintained last year’s huge gains in AP exams taken and passed, but were actually able to build on them,” said Whitney Tilson, co-founder of REACH. “I want to congratulate the REACH Scholars for the hard work and academic excellence they have demonstrated this year, and am confident that they will continue it in college and beyond.”

Added Bill Ackman, Founder & CEO, Pershing Square Capital Management, “The goal of REACH is to expose thousands of additional high school students in New York City’s poorest neighborhoods to rigorous, college-level work so they will go off to college better prepared and more likely to graduate. Given the great strides over the last two years, we’re proud of the REACH program and especially the REACH Scholars.”

REACH aims to prepare low-income and minority students for college success and reduce the achievement gap in education. AP courses are college-level courses offered in high schools across the country; performance on AP exams is considered to be one of the best predictors of academic success by admissions officers at top colleges and universities.

In addition to paying students incentive rewards, REACH will also be distributing approximately $50,000 in grants to classrooms this year, so that AP teachers can invest in their students and enhance the AP course offerings in their schools.

Founded by the education reformer Whitney Tilson and the Council of Urban Professionals (CUP), and sponsored by the Pershing Square Foundation, REACH is an innovative, high impact merit scholarship program designed to substantially increase the number of low-income and minority students that participate in college-preparatory Advanced Placement (AP) courses; do well on AP exams; and successfully prepare for, enter, and graduate from four-year colleges and universities. In just three years since its inception, REACH has already become the largest scholarship program of its kind in the nation, and one of the most impactful.

28 high schools have participated fully in the REACH program since inception. Of the original 31 schools, three were placed into relegation status last year: one that is closing, one for persistently poor results, and one for losing numerous AP teachers.  Students at these three schools who completed LEW earned $200, $150 and $100, respectively.  Counting all 31 schools, AP exams taken and passed rose 8% and 1% this year, 28% and 20% over the past two years, and 39% and 21% over the past three years.  REACH was launched after the school year was already underway in October 2007, so it has had two full years and one partial year of impact.

40% of REACH students report family income of less than $25,000, and 75% have family income of less than $55,000. In addition, half of REACH students report that English was their second language, and nearly 80% have at least one parent who immigrated to the United States.

According to the College Board, REACH’s core program of incentive scholarships for students, buttressed by AP workshops for students and teachers in 15 AP subjects, and college admissions mentorship for high school seniors, is “a promising solution to closing the achievement gap and accelerating the expansion of academic rigor at schools that serve low-income and minority students.”