Monday Reading List: My Dopelganger Rides a Skateboard

To start the week, Jay Mathews of the Washington Post continues to make the case for academic rigor:

AP, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge courses are increasing rapidly in high schools. This includes places like [DC's Cardozo High School], where 99 percent of the students are low-income and few land on the high-achievement end of any bell curve. "AP classes should be for those at the right of the curve," a reader commented on one of my columns online. Many agree. But teachers and students at schools like Cardozo have a different attitude. Katherine Arias, who just graduated from Cardozo, thought that ... her English courses "were always too slow paced, the assignments were too simple ... when I realized my AP class was the complete opposite, I was ecstatic."

The evidence is clear that many more students can be successful in AP courses than currently have the opportunity to enroll in them. There are artificial barriers to entry in AP courses, including persnickety guidance counselors and senseless prerequisite courses. The College Board was shocked to find out that a huge number of African-American students who are likely to be successful in AP courses, but aren't enrolled, attend a school that offers those courses. Mustering the public will to change that reality might be the kind of things folks study at a new think tank on black leadership at Paul Quinn College in Texas:

Under the leadership of President Michael Sorrell, the college has become a thriving epicenter for Dallas. After cutting the football program, Sorrell turned the football field into a community farm. With this community farm, he created the We Over Me Farm to address food desert conditions in southern Dallas. Programs like the We Over Me Farm are just a small example of the impact President Sorrell wants Paul Quinn to have on the world. So with the announcement of a black think tank coming from the campus this week, no one is really surprised by his next big idea. President Sorrell has joined forces with State Senator Royce West to bring this black think tank to fruition. Senator West wants the leadership institute to serve as a training ground for grooming the next generation of elected officials. 

The institute needs both leadership and funding, so if you read this, and you're a funder ...

Speaking of "rain, making it," community colleges in Massachusetts want to know whether financial incentives can improve completion rates:

In April, Massachusetts announced a new initiative to improve academic progress at its community colleges. Beginning in the 2016 – 2017 school year, the “Commonwealth Commitment” will allow full-time students with a GPA over 3.0 to claim a small, 10 percent rebate on tuition and fees after each semester completed, which comes out to about $277. But while the state should try to get more students to graduate, a small tuition rebate at the end of a semester probably won’t change a struggling student’s decision to enroll.

Ben Barrett of the New America Foundation thinks it's a better plan to offer small incentives along the way:

Students in danger of not making it to graduation day may be struggling financially right now, and a reward after that struggle is over will not provide any relief. Charging extra tuition upfront and holding it hostage will only worsen their stress. Instead, states and institutions should consider offering micro-completion grants along the way to those who are close to graduating but have withdrawn due to demonstrable financial need. One program, Georgia State University’s Panther Retention Grant, has shown particular promise in this regard.

Finally, for something a little different, photographer Cassandra Giraldo documents youth culture in New York City with a photo series in the Atlantic. I liked this picture the best, and it's just a total bonus that his name is "Justin."

From The Atlantic: Justin, 14, plays on his skateboard as he waits for his brothers to bring out an after-school snack from the corner bodega in Brooklyn on May 20, 2015. Cassandra Giraldo   

From The Atlantic: Justin, 14, plays on his skateboard as he waits for his brothers to bring out an after-school snack from the corner bodega in Brooklyn on May 20, 2015. Cassandra Giraldo