Repairing Grading One Fix at a Time – part 3

This is the third in a series of posts devoted to sharing my experiences in a Standards Based Grading classroom. Each is focused on one ‘fix’ for broken grades From Ken O’Connor’s book¬†A Repair Kit for Grading – 15 Fixes for Broken Grades. (O’Connor, 2011)

Fix 3 – Don’t give points for extra credit or use bonus points; seek only evidence that more work has resulted in a higher level of achievement.

In my experience there are at least two general categories of extra credit – tasks that are unrelated to the learning experience, and additional (extra) assignments or items that either address a deeper understanding of a standard or allow students to make up missed points. Both are at best unnecessary and at worst inappropriate.

I have seen it all (and done it all in my early teaching) with extra credit…giving points for donating kleenex and markers, points for bringing in food for the food drive, points for dressing up during homecoming week. Although we need things like kleenex and markers in our classrooms, these have absolutely nothing to do with the academic achievement of students. When they are included in a grade, it is in turn inflated and does not accurately communicate a student’s proficiency level.

When teachers give a bonus question on an assessment or an additional project that can be completed for extra credit the message to students is clear. These tasks are for some, but not for all. Many of our students won’t even attempt these items or assignments. Don’t we want everyone to practice and be assessed at all proficiency levels? This is how we can truly know where our students are in relation to the standards. Give each one the opportunity to showcase his or her learning at its highest level.

With regard to giving an extra assignment for students to make up points, why would we create an entirely new assignment if the original one was not completed? All this does is add to the workload of teachers who are already inundated. A better choice – have the student go back and do the missing assignment. If it was important enough to assign, it is important enough to complete. Save yourself some time!

I besides the ‘extra’, I have a problem with the word credit. To me, this implies that students are being compensated with a grade instead of it being communication of a proficiency level. This breeds extrinsic motivation for learning which works against our drive to create lifelong learners. An engaging environment that supports and guides students to be intrinsically motivated is created when we communicate that learning is not simply a collection of points, rather an enduring experience in which all can be successful.¬†

In my classroom, the words extra credit were eliminated from our common language. Students were given every opportunity to learn, and knew that if they did not complete the work, the only option was to complete it. All were expected to work toward mastery of the standards and shift their focus away from grades. Once they understood why we didn’t ‘do extra credit’, the questions about it subsided and we better focused on the task at hand, learning.

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