Category Archives: Extra Credit

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.

Standards-Based Grading Presentation on Monday

I have to present on Monday to my department the information I learned from a workshop on standards-based grading two months ago, and the presenter used the following works to base his presentation, of which I have read only three:

  • A Repair Kit for Grading by Ken O’Connor,
  • Mindset by Carol Dweck,
  • Transforming Classroom Grading by Robert Marzano,
  • Classroom Assessment & Grading that Work by Robert Marzano, and
  • Classroom Assessment For Student Learning by Richard Stiggins, et al.

Based on his research the presenter provided a number of points about how standards-based grading works, and these are the primary points I noted on my tablet as we discussed this new type of grading.

1. Student behaviors (effort, attendance, etc.) should not be a part of a student’s grades.

2. Late work does not result in a lower grade.

3. Extra credit should not be part of a student’s grade.

4. Academic dishonesty should not result in a lower grade.

5. Attendance should not be a part of a student’s grade.

6. Group scores should not be factored into individual grades.

7. Performance standards must be clear.

8. Grades should not be based on the mean.

9. Zeroes should not be factored into grades.

10. Homework should not be part of a student’s grade.

11. Grades should be based on more recent evidence.

How do you feel about these eleven points?

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Previously I have blogged about my feelings on grading, and I’m still slowly molding my grading system, but it’s definitely moving towards standards-based grading. Here are some posts of mine on this topic and grading papers:

1. Standards-Based Grading

2. Standards-Based Grading (cont.) (featuring Jim Van Pelt, an excellent blogger)

3. Excused vs. Unexcused

4. Changing Grading May Change Failure Rates

5. The Rule of 24 and Anchor Papers

Oldies but Goodies

I may be unable to blog for a couple days, so here is a list of some of my more popular posts from my brief blogging history. I hope these links spark some conversation and, more importantly, some thought on a range of education topics.

1. Teaching Connotation and Denotation (and its follow up post and some poems to use)

2. Using the movie The Matrix in Class

3. Discussions Using the Fish Bowl

4. Do Teachers Create Student Failures?

5. Make-up Work and Absences

6. Standards-Based Grading (and its follow up)

7. The Purpose of Assessment

8. A Fun Game for the Classroom

9.Tracking Themes in Literature

10. Teacher Websites

And on a humorous note: My Snark is Prepared

Fun Games in the Classroom

One game I like to play with my students is TriBond. Sometimes when we have a few minutes to spare we play different thinking games, and this is one of my (and my students’) favorites.

The idea is to figure out the common bond connecting three seemingly random items. Here are a few of the puzzles with the answers down below.

1. the Lincoln Assassination, Superman comics, a diner

2. an elephant, a tree, a car

3. an icy airplane, a naughty child, a wire

4. sucker, rabbit, haymaker

5. a bad golfer, a bad writer, a bad cough Continue reading

Gift Wrapped Credits & Diplomas

A while back I had a student, Davy, reach the final week of his final semester in high school, and he had a 40% in my senior Mythology course while maintaining an attendance rate of 60% (and I think a blood-alcohol level of 2.0 most of the semester). I wouldn’t budge on giving “extra credit” to Davy as requested by the parents and the principal.

Instead of asking “what can Davy do to pass the course?” I was asked “what extra credit will you give Davy so he can pass?” I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t feel supported, and I definitely didn’t feel that the integrity of the course was being upheld. The principal placed the responsibility of Davy’s success on my shoulders instead of Davy’s. Still, I did offer one option: Davy passes the final with a C or better–showing that he learned the material–and I would pass him with a D-. Davy and his parents declined. Continue reading

My Snark is Prepared

Ok. I can admit it. I’m a cynical and sarcastic high school teacher at times. To prove this, I have prepared all of my snarky answers, which I can’t say, but would absolutely love to do so from time to time:

Student:”What’s my grade?”
Me: “Who cares? If you don’t know, it’s not that important to you. I want you to learn, not try to acquire points.”

S: “I forgot my homework.”
Me: “You’re fired!”

S: “What’d I get on the final?”
Me: “You should’ve known when you took it. Did you know the answers?”

S: “Did you finish the grades?”
Me: “When my grades are posted, you’ll know I’m done grading.”

S: “Did we do anything important while I was gone?”
Me: “No, we took a holiday because you weren’t here; we didn’t want you to miss anything. Of course, we did something important! Otherwise, we wouldn’t have done it.”

S: “I’m going to be gone tomorrow. Will I miss anything (important)?”
Me: [See above but put in future tense.]

S: “Can I turn the assignment in tomorrow? [Enter excuse here.]”
Me: “No. I want it today. That’s why today is the deadline. If I wanted it tomorrow, that would’ve been the deadline. By the way, you’re fired!”

S: “Can I have some extra credit to boost my grade?”
Me: “No. There are two types of students who ask for extra credit: those who won’t do it and those who don’t need it. Besides, the entire idea of extra credit is ludicrous. It means you didn’t do what you were supposed to do and don’t deserve it.”

S: “Is it ok if I [enter way to break a rule here]?”
Me: “No. If you had to ask, you know it’s not ok. And now, you’re fired!”

S: “What do I have to do to pass? I just want to pass.”
Me: (Sigh) “Fulfill the requirements as stated on the hand-out you just received. Don’t strain yourself while you’re at it.” (Oh, man! He’ll be put in charge of something important some day–probably my pension.)

S: “I just want to do the best I can. I just want to learn.”
Me: (Almost black out) “You get it. You understand why you’re here. But, sorry to say, you’re fired! You might take my job.”