Thursday, August 28, 2014

Is it time to eliminate extra credit in schools?

'Is there anything I can do to get some extra credit?'

If you've worked in education for more than 20 minutes, you've probably heard a student ask this question.

Extra credit has been and continues to be a common staple in classrooms all across the globe.

I personally was a teacher who awarded extra credit to my HS German students when they brought in Kleenexes, markers, and even on quizzes when they could answer random questions correctly when the questions had nothing to do with German. I even one time gave extra credit to students who brought in my favorite candy.

I saw nothing wrong with what I was doing.

Oh how wrong I was...

For the record, I openly and publicly apologize for committing a crime against assessments and a crime against my students because what I was doing was wrong on so many levels.

For one, I was reinforcing socio-economic differences and discriminating against those students who didn't have the means to buy Kleenexes, markers, and my favorite candy. Those who had the means whether it was financial or just a simple car ride, were able to capitalize on these extra credit opportunities while others weren't.

Also, a majority of the extra credit that occurred in my classroom had nothing to do with students and their learning of German. Heck, many didn't have any educational value at any level for that matter.

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, the extra credit I was giving was completely distorting and destroying any accuracy that I'd hope to achieve with my grading structure. I would work so hard to ensure my assessments were properly aligned and equitable for students based on their preferred method of mastery demonstration. Then, in one fell swoop, I would destroy it all by giving extra credit for stuff that didn't have any relation or connection at all to German.

What I thought was perfectly fine was anything but fine.

It was not until several years later that I recognized the error of my ways.

Here's the deal, if you want your grades to be accurate and a true reflection of student mastery and learning, then you can't muddy the waters by giving extra credit.

Also, I would urge you to avoid giving extra credit for doing 'more' of something as well. For example, a kid who does 100 math problems poorly hasn't demonstrated the same level of mastery as a kid who does 20 perfectly.

More doesn't always equal a mastery of learning...

So, are you going to take the plunge and eliminate extra credit from your classroom? What are your thoughts...?