Investing in Extra Credit
Posted March 13, 2011on:
I’m not a fan of extra credit. Here is how I lay out my thoughts on the matter to my students:
- If you don’t turn in your work when it is due, extra credit is not for you. (This will be the one and only rhyme in this post, I promise.)
- I curve the grades. I make the tests and quizzes challenging, then I curve the average up to a C+.
- You want to do well in my class, do your homework, come in for tutoring, pay attention in class, take notes, study for the tests and quizzes. Do your homework!
- My course is designed so that honestly attempting homework banks enough points to overcome poor test scores. Did I mention, “Do your homework?”
There are some students that do all their work, they really try, but their math foundation is shaky and/or they don’t test well. If you work hard but fail tests, I tend to secretly award point at the end of the quarter for coming in for tutoring. Most teachers won’t fail a student that really, sincerely tries, but doesn’t succeed.
Now, about that extra credit. Generally I don’t like it, but sometimes it’s my idea, sometimes it’s a request from another teacher or administration, like…
Toys for Tots: Bring in a toy, help another child and you help yourself. This one, the ends clearly justifies the means.
Support school spirit: Attend a basketball game and support our team. It was only 5 points, the value of a homework, so sure. After all, I am the boys soccer coach. Go CHARGERS!
Warning – slippery slope, proceed with caution!
Students that volunteered to help other students with their science fair projects (as research subjects) and were picked were given points. Many applied, but few were chosen. So if you were picked, you got 20 extra credit points. That made a big difference for a few lucky people. Extra credit is now a lottery. Buy your tickets at the door.
So how about these:
- Points for bringing in a (usable) box of tissues for the classroom?
- Buying a fish for the fish tank?
- Buying batteries for the robots?
- Buying white board markers for the classroom?
So now it’s all about the Benjamins. (For you international readers, those are $100 bills.)
Where does it end? I mean, I’d really like a boat.
This all started because the school purchases Expo markers for the white boards. I stopped using them, they don’t erase well. I’ve been purchasing Quartet fine tip markers from Staples when they go on sale for $1 for five. Yeah, the sale just ended, sorry. I like these, they don’t leave a residue when you erase the board, so I never have to spray the white boards anymore. I thought about letting anyone who wanted extra credit go out and purchase two packages for $2 (the store limit), but my conscience got in the way.
See where this takes us? I mean, sure I really wanted them to buy me more markers, but the fate of the free world is in my hands here.
But seriously, if only for a moment, do we assign extra credit projects or purchases for students that don’t do their work when it is assigned? How about students caught cheating? Did I mention that roughly 30% of our students qualify for free lunch.
An engineering degree, a Master’s degree, twenty years of corporate sales and eight years of teaching just hasn’t prepared me for this decision.
I really do want a boat, though.