It's not unusual for American parents to slip their kids a few dollars or a lot of dollars - as well as cell phones, computer games or other tangible rewards - for making good grades in school. The adults often equate these rewards to bonuses given for exceptional performance in the workplace.
And these days, the idea of paying young students to do well is spreading to the schools themselves.
Corporations and wealthy individuals are funding programs in 67 high schools in seven states. They pay up to $200 apiece to kids who score high on college-preparatory exams.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has instituted a privately funded program that pays some low-income students $10 just for taking certain tests and up to $50 more for doing well on them.
Dallas, Texas, hands students $2 for every book they read. And many more pay-for-performance models are popping up across the country.
Those who like the idea of shelling out cash for classroom achievement argue that incentive programs motivate indifferent students and mirror the real, adult world in which high salaries and bonuses go to those who perform. They say monetary recognition teaches a healthy lesson: that good work will be rewarded.
But many parents are aghast at the idea of paying for grades. They call it a slippery slope in which students will get spoiled and want more and larger rewards as they progress through school.
Critics also say kids who are paid don't learn the internal satisfaction of achievement. And besides, they point out, good students would have done well without any monetary sweeteners.
Janet Bodnar, an editor at "Kiplinger's Personal Finance" magazine, wrote, "We don't pay our kids for mastering skills like tying their shoes or riding a bike, nor should we pay them for learning to read."
Many parents say they pay rewards to their kids, all right - down the road. Instead of $20 for an A grade here or a high test score there, they say, "We'll pay for college." That's an incentive bonus that could be worth $100,000 or more!
Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.