A privately funded program in a public school in Manhattan offers kids up to $50 for doing well on standardized tests. Schools across the country are experimenting with incentive programs that reward students for everything from showing up to school, to doing well on tests, to getting good grades overall.

Is this just a sign of the times? Or is it something that we should frown upon? I'm a believer that kids should go to school and they should learn because it is the right thing to do. You can't get ahead if you can't read. Yet these days, it seems that fewer students and families value education the way we used to.

I will be interested to see if these incentive programs really do any good. Part of me thinks that the students who already try hard will keep doing so, while the majority of those who don't want an education will not take advantage of this opportunity. I hope I'm wrong.

I am glad, though, that the incentive programs are being paid for with private funds. I do think a case could be made for better ways to spend that money, but so long as it is not paid by the taxpayers, I don't really care. Oh, and the teacher has an incentive too: If the class improves enough, she can get a bonus up to $3,000.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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