New York City education officials began doling out cell phones to 2,500 middle school students on Feb. 27 as part of a closely watched experiment to try to change the way teenagers think about doing well in school, the New York Times reports. The pilot program, at three Brooklyn middle schools and four charter schools, is part of an effort by Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein to motivate students to perform better academically–and reward them when they do. Each student is receiving a Samsung flip-phone in a package specially designed with the program’s logo. The phones come loaded with 130 prepaid minutes. Good behavior, attendance, homework, and test scores will be rewarded with additional minutes. Teachers and administrators also will be able to use a system to send text messages to several students at a time, to remind them of things like upcoming tests and other school information. Some critics of the program say it’s absurd for school officials to reward students with a device that is banned from the public schools…

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