3. Extra Credit Should Not Be Part of a Student’s Grade.

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.

5 thoughts on “3. Extra Credit Should Not Be Part of a Student’s Grade.

  1. Clix

    I had a student ask for extra credit yesterday. I told him that if he’d just COMPLETE the work he’s missing (and do well on it) he wouldn’t need the extra credit. He was silent for a moment or two, then said: “Oh. Oh yeah.”

  2. Mrs. Chili

    I completely agree with a “no extra credit” policy. In MY case, I don’t give extra credit because, most of the time, my students don’t bother doing the work I DO assign; what on Earth makes them think that I’ll give them something ELSE to do?!

  3. drpezz Post author

    My general belief about extra credit is this: those who need it won’t do it, and those who do it don’t need it.

    One teacher in my building gives extra credit, but his rule is that the can’t have any missing work; plus, the extra credit has to be an extension of what the class is doing.

    Another teacher only adds in extra credit at the end of the semester if a student has a 70% or higher; the extra points won’t save anyone from a D or F.

    I do, technically, have extra credit, but I weight it so that it can’t help in any discernible sense. It’s just my way of getting students to do enrichment work.

  4. Anonymous

    I will occasionally give extra credit, but I believe that this must always be reflective of what a student can do.

    My extra credit is always curricular and requires a demonstration of mastery of the same things the class has learned. Coloring a page or bringing me coffee earn a thank you, but are not worthy of extra credit. Researching food that is typically eaten in another country, making that food, and talking to the class about the food and the culture, is worthy of extra credit and also ties in to my standards in a way that I cannot reach in my normal instruction.

    The funny thing is, to earn extra credit in my class, a student has to actually do more work than originally done in the class and show more mastery of that knowledge than in the class.

  5. drpezz Post author

    From a standards-based perspective, any extra credit skews the meaning of the grade. The extra study your student does would move him/her to a higher level of achievement (from a B to an A, for example). Defining what each grade means, starting with the minimum standard, would be a first step, and then ensuring that everyone has the same definitions for the grades would be the second step. Each grade would mean the same thing in each class. Extra credit would alter the meaning of the grades.


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