Improving student achievement in our schools is an integral part of our effort to strengthen and expand Arkansas's economy. Today's high-performing students will become tomorrow's highly skilled employees, helping Arkansas attract investment from cutting-edge businesses and industries, whether close to home or from abroad.
Advanced Placement courses, which allow high-school students to take college-level courses and receive college credit for them, are opportune ways for students to accelerate their educations and raise their achievement levels. We've made it a goal in Arkansas to see every high school make these AP courses available, and to witness more students successfully complete those classes.
Four years ago this week, I announced that Arkansas was one of only six states to receive a $13.2-million grant from the National Math and Science Initiative to improve the Advanced Placement scores of students. The goal was to increase the number of students scoring 3 or higher on AP exams in math, science and English. This grant was administered by the nonprofit foundation, Arkansas Advanced Initiative for Math and Science, Inc., or AAIMS. Recently, when AAIMS released its latest data for the 31 Arkansas high schools in the AP Strategies program, we received the good news that our efforts are continuing to pay off.
The 2010-2011 school year was the third year of this six-year grant, funded by Exxon/Mobil and the Walton Family Foundation. Once again, the participating schools posted significant achievements in test scores for AP math, science and English. The 31 schools in the program took more than 36 percent of the total AP tests given in Arkansas last year and received nearly 40 percent of the qualifying scores of "3 or better." Even more notable, AAIMS schools administered more than 43 percent of the AP tests taken by minority students and received nearly 54 percent of the qualifying scores.
Along with increasing AP participation, the grant also provides funding for additional training for AP teachers, and pays both teachers and students a cash incentive for qualifying scores. However, the most important aspect of the grant is the impact that it has on the culture of the participating schools. I have visited AAIMS schools for award ceremonies for the past three years, and I have seen firsthand the excitement and enthusiasm the students have for these achievements.
In these schools, high-level academic achievement is a point of pride and prestige, and all students are encouraged to participate and raise expectations for their own success. The results show us that higher standards and ambitious goals produce positive results, and the key to improving education in Arkansas and expanding our economy is to demand more of our schools, our communities and ourselves. The AAIMS initiative is helping to bring about more academic success, but is also reminding us that when we embrace the energy, creativity, and talent of every one of our children, they will succeed. And, in the end, so will our State.