Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Extra credit

What is the purpose of extra credit?  Is it extra learning or is it grade improvement?

My son has had several opportunities to do extra credit during his freshman year.  Each time, it is solely for the purpose of improving his grade.  It seems funny to me that we give kids grades on assignments that supposedly measures their mastery of learning.  After the grade is given, many teachers offer extra credit opportunities rather than extra learning opportunities.  What is more important, the grade or the learning?

Still, I encourage him to get the extra credit.  It seems to be one of the rules of the game called high school.  It is a game that not too many kids enjoy playing.  Yet, they must play and they must play by the rules, no matter how archaic or teacher-centered the rules might be.  Extra credit is not really student-centered.  It is a simple way for teachers to make sure the class gets better grades.  It doesn't equate to better learning.  It simply allows the teacher to move forward through the written curriculum because student performance "looks" good enough.  Kids are told it is an opportunity to improve the grade.  No bones about it.  Extra credit is about the grade.

When a kid shows concern for a low grade, it gives the teacher an easy out.  Rather than worry about what the kid learned, extra credit shifts the focus to a simple grade adjustment.  In this game, adjusting the grade seems to solve the problem and keep the game moving.  I think many kids would prefer a better game.

***Many teachers may say, "It wouldn't be a problem if students did better on their assignments the first time."  What we would do in education if every student asked us, "I didn't learn this well enough from your first lessons.  What will you do right now to make sure I fully learn this concept?"***