In my Standards-Based Grading post this weekend, Anon Y. Mous asked that I explain the rationale behind each of the core guidelines involved in the S.B.G. system. I think it’s a good suggestion and continue this process with the third core guideline. Please comment with any corrections as I am still learning this new system.
Extra credit does not accurately reflect a student’s achievement. It skews what the grade is supposed to represent and eliminates the ability of teachers and students to know exactly what a letter grade represents.
The most egregious examples of extra credit are things like bringing the teacher coffee, washing desks, and so on. These activities do not even relate to the content of a course, yet they often are rewarded academically. Allowing extra credit tells students that exceptions can be made when earning grades; shortcuts and means of circumvention are permissible when extra credit is allowed.
Also, more work does not equate to better work. Just because a student completes an extra project or provides more examples than is required, this does not mean the student has reached higher levels of complex and critical thought. Simply doing more does not provide any rationale for more points or an extra inflated grade.
This may lead to layered or tiered assignments, which can be quite beneficial to a student’s academic growth. If meeting the minimum standard is a ‘D’ grade (for argument’s sake), then reaching a higher level of complexity could earn a student a ‘C.’ The next level means the next higher grade and so on. I have a poetry assignment where a part of the grade is based on the type of poetry written. Three quatrains earns a ‘D,’ six couplets is a ‘C,’ a sonnet receives a ‘B,’ and a vilanelle is worth an ‘A.’ There is more to the assignment than this, but it’s a quick example. Still, it shows that complexity and advancement earn higher scores, not just more work.
Extra credit should be eliminated when using a standards-based grading system. It does not allow grades to be representative of a student’s achievement and does not allow grades to mean the same thing in different classrooms.