Assessment

Extra Credit: Grade-Grubbing or Acts-of-Desperation?

August 23, 2014

The school year is four days old, I’ve seen each of my classes twice, and already I’ve received an email from a parent asking about extra credit. My extra credit policy has evolved quite a bit over the years, usually in response to how students use or abuse it. A few years ago, frustrated with what I saw as either grade-grubbing (“I HAVE to have an A!”) or acts of desperation (“I HAVE to pass this class!”), I designed a new extra credit policy. My goal was that extra credit would reward students for engaging in activities that contributed to the development of their reading/writing/communication skills, but couldn’t be used to make up for assigned work that had not been done. I wouldn’t accept extra credit if a student had any missing assignments. You can see my new policy here: http://bit.ly/1nnRtQs.

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As much as my students insisted that they needed extra credit, very few of them took me up on this new policy. My guess is that they didn’t really want to work that hard; they just wanted an easy way to boost their grade. So in a way, my policy worked. Grades need to be accurate reflections of a student’s performance, right? Extra credit often inflates grades, making it look like a student has performed better than he/she has. So should we even offer extra credit?

This year I am teaching all advanced-level English 8 classes. In my experience, these are the students who seek extra credit because the straight-A-4.0 is their goal. While we would all love our students to strive for good grades, I am much more interested in whether or not they are eager to learn, striving to improve their skills. Does offering extra credit just encourage grade-grubbing?  I’m considering not offering extra credit at all this year, communicating to my students (and their parents) the importance of doing their very best on all assignments and not using extra credit to make up for what is an accurate reflection of their abilities.

What do you think? What is your extra credit policy?

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we've preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer's own.