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NYC announces plan to offer cash incentives to students

Story Highlights

• Program will offer cash incentives for good grades, classroom attendance
• Mayor Bloomberg: "We are serious about tackling poverty in New York City"
• Critics say program reinforces focus on testing, not learning
From Richard Davis
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- In a move that has gained nation-wide attention, New York City officials announced on Monday the details of an anti-poverty program that will offer, amongst other things, cash incentives to low-income students with good grades and classroom attendance.

"We are serious about tackling poverty in New York City and are committed to finding innovative ways of doing so," remarked Mayor Bloomberg in a press release.

The program, called "Opportunity NYC," will award the families of elementary, middle and high school students up to $50 a month for 95% school attendance, $25 for attending parent-teacher conferences and $50 for obtaining a library card.

Students who test well are eligible to receive up to $600 for each passing grade on the Regents exam, as well as a $400 bonus for graduating.

The program is not without its critics.

"It's unconscionable what they're doing, and it makes it very clear that testing has become a curriculum and there isn't any real learning going on," commented Jane Hirschman from -- an organization dedicated to fighting the excessive, high-stakes testing of students.

"Everyone takes the test and everyone gets their money," Hirschman said.

The program will be implemented in some of the poorest areas of New York City and service 2,550 families at incomes below 130 percent of the federal poverty level, according to the press release.



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