SOME people at the National Math and Science Initiative think I don't appreciate them, but that's not quite right.
I enjoy their engaging television ads on great teachers and international competition.
Few other private groups have done as much to make high schools more rigorous. They have some of the smartest school reformers I know.
The Dallas-based nonprofit organization has spent nearly $80 million, much of it from the ExxonMobil Foundation, in nine states.
The first 136 schools in its program - of teacher training, weekend study sessions and student supports - have seen the number of passing scores on Advanced Placement math, science and English tests increase 137 percent for all students and 203 percent for African American and Hispanic students in three years.
The initiative now has 462 schools, including some in southern Virginia.
My hesitation to embrace its approach has to do with the way I was raised.
My parents never paid me for good grades, while students at National Math and Science Initiative schools can get $100 for every AP exam they pass.
Teachers in the program get similar bonuses for every passing AP score in their class, as well as extra pay for the long hours they devote to their classes.
That's OK. They don't grade the exams. They are professionals being paid for their services.
It is the money to the students that bothers me.
I have been writing about the initiative and an earlier Texas program that inspired it for more than a decade. When I indulge my inner moralist and fret over the bonuses, the program leaders always have the same response:
It works. It appears particularly good at motivating low-income minority students, who are often the majority in the schools it serves.