School students pass ‘go’ and collect … a free car

Students at Clarksville-Montgomery County School System can win a brand-new Toyota Yaris, Hyundai Accent or Kia Rio—or other prizes, such as gift cards—if they score a 3 or higher on exams.

Editor’s Note: Nuts and Bolts delves into how a school or district developed an innovative program.

Each year, the number of high school students in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System who take and pass AP class exams continues to rise. It helps that students know they can win a brand-new Toyota Yaris, Hyundai Accent or Kia Rio—or other prizes, such as gift cards—if they score a 3 or higher on exams.

The Tennessee district holds pre-test pep rallies where students at its seven high schools can see the cars they will try to win.

Clarksville-Montgomery County School System

Total students: 34,702

24 elementary schools—17,417 students

7 middle schools—7,762 students

7 high schools (plus one at Austin Peay State University) with 9,523 students

Getting in gear

In 2007, only a handful of students enrolled in AP courses—and even fewer passed. Clarksville-Montgomery sought to increase participation and achievement with an annual car giveaway. A local dealership, Wyatt Johnson Automotive Group, signed on as sponsor.

In addition, other businesses, such as the Beach Oil Company and Domino’s, provide gift cards. Domino’s also supplies pizza for the pep rallies.

The district’s education foundation raises between $5,000 and $9,000 from dinner auctions and other events. It also collects donated tablets and laptops to give as prizes.

Driving to success


883—student participation in AP

297—students who passed AP exams

34 percent pass rate*


1,182—student participation in AP

647—students who passed AP exams

50 percent pass rate*

*The national pass rate average is approximately 20 percent

Lubricating the machine: The AP program

For the AP classes and exams, all seven high schools receive grants from the National Math and Science Institute. Schools collaborate on goals, and educators host study sessions for students.

Additionally, Wyatt Johnson funds summer PD sessions for AP teachers.

Revving the engine: The main event

Students get their prizes at “Pass and Go!” The event is held in late July, a few weeks after the AP Board releases exam results.

“This gives us enough time to get letters to students that say, ‘Congrats! You passed your exam and are invited to Pass and Go!,’” says Abby Binkley, the education foundation’s executive director.

Students receive one key for each AP exam they passed and then progress through various elimination rounds. The student whose key says “winner” in the final round wins one of the three vehicles.

“The program has become a well-oiled machine over the years,” says Binkley. “We did have to change the rules because students tried to ‘beat’ the system, and they sometimes did. But it makes sense—they’re smart kids.”

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