Monday, April 16, 2012

Can I Get Extra Credit in College?

Can I Get Extra Credit in College? I really want to know. When I was back at ‘ol Mizzou in the late 80s, I don’t remember having the option. And, there were a few times, I would have sold my soul for five or ten points. Memories of my 89% in my Forestry, Fisheries, and Wildlife course (don’t judge, I needed the science credit) came roaring back when I recently read a blog post on how Twitter is improving the 21st century college classroom. Link to complete post at 

Of the seven ways shared in the post on how Twitter can be used in college, #2 states: “To boost engagement on Twitter, these questions might appear at the end of tests as extra credit or as separate extra-credit assignments, giving tweeters an edge.” If Twitter existed back in 1988 in the one course keeping me from my first college 4.0, you can bet the bank I would have been tweeting.

Fast forward to 2012 where I am now a high school principal. I’m convinced that extra credit is one of the top three evils of traditional schooling and teacher grading practice. I’m all for extra practice and multiple opportunities for students to show evidence of learning. But, extra credit emphasizes the accumulation of points, not proficiency on a learning goal or improving academic performance. When I think about what I really remember from Forestry, Fisheries, and Wildlife, all I can really recollect is the argument I had with the professor: an argument over one percentage point and an opportunity for an extra credit. I lost the argument.

I recently was visiting with a friend whose child attends a neighboring high school. She shared about a grade of a B- in a course, but they weren’t worried. The teacher was also a coach in the district and was offering 10 points extra credit for attending a game and supporting the home team. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I hope the few followers I have on this blog post will come through the laptop at the thought of anything so ridiculous impacting a students’ grade.

As much as I love Twitter, I have greater things in mind than extra credit in college for its effective and responsible use. No disrespect to the idea or the author of the blog post intended. The other six suggestions were excellent.

In parting, I would like to say to all educators, “stop giving ridiculous opportunities for extra credit!” One of the biggest criticisms of high schools is the lack of preparedness for college-level work. My guess is if it weren’t for extra credit, some kids might never have made it to college. But, how sad for the “extra credit kids” when they are sitting in their first College Algebra class and realize all they remember about math from high school was the argument with the teacher over a few points, or how attending a ball game made the difference between a B+ and an A-.

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