By Robbie Owens

CEDAR HILL, Texas (CBS11) – Paying for grades? It’s a big `no way’ in many households; but, the Cedar Hill school district is launching a plan to reward students who excel in AP classes– and they’re doing it with cash.

“If you score a 5, that’s $500, if you score a 4, that’s $400,” says Michael McDonald, Principal of Cedar Hill High. Students who score a 3 on those Advanced Placement tests will receive a $300 payout. Over the course of their high school careers, students could earn as much as $10,000. No catch, says McDonald. “They submit their scores, and the district will cut their check.”

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Students can also earn college credit for passing the end of course exams and the district will cover the costs for the tests. McDonald says the effort is intended to bolster the district’s advanced academic program so Cedar Hill families looking for academic rigor will look close to home, first.

“Every parent now has options, and that’s a great thing. We want to be the number one option, and that means top tier academics,” says McDonald.

In Cedar Hill and other communities, competition from private and now charter schools has forced districts to be more creative and offer more innovative options. Funding for the incentive program will come from the district’s gifted and talented budget.

“We want to be the leading choice, so we have to have programs in place that will attract the top kids.”

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“The money is just extra,” says Cedar Hill junior Demonjea Powell, who says she likes AP courses because they are academically challenging. “I would be fine if they didn’t offer the money. We’re regular kids; but, we’re smart and we finally get recognized for it.”

Powell, who is also an AP peer tutor, says she’s excited about the new lounge that’s been built for the AP students because it also sends the message that “smart is cool.”

Students must show special AP badges in order to gain access. The hip, cool spot with bright colors, computers and comfortable chairs is intended to be a gathering spot for AP students only. They can have lunch, relax, study, debate or get free tutoring from their AP peers. And yes, the ‘exclusivity’ is an intentional attraction.

“This morning, I was hearing some kids say ‘like– have you seen the AP lounge??? It’s amazing!'” says Adrian Sanchez, an AP student and peer tutor. “I was like, ‘if you want to experience it, maybe you should join AP classes’,” adds Sanchez.

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“We want to make good grades,” says Xavier Chatman, a junior who plans on becoming a surgical oncologist. “But once you put a little money on it? It’s like– you need to go get it for real!”