By: Claire O’Rourke and Uma Ribeiro
Revised for this 2019-2020 school, policy 8020.III.6 states: “Extra credit is not offered in Grades 6-12. However, students may be provided with opportunities to recover credit and demonstrate mastery through other relevant coursework. Opportunities should be given to students who are not passing whenever possible.”
The new extra credit policy was implemented this school year, stating that no students in middle school and up can receive extra assignments to boost their grades. The committee working on revising the HCPSS policies offered reasoning for this change in that students in the past had been skipping papers or other big projects banking on the less arduous extra credit opportunities to make up for their grades.
An Example of an Extra Credit Assignment: Hester Prynne by Terra O’Rourke
The new policy brings both positives and negatives to the table, as students are now forced to complete larger and more in-depth assignments that are part of the core curriculum rather than skipping them and waiting for the easier extra credit work.
Skipping those larger assignments take away the students’ ability to truly learn needed academic skills, such as those acquired when writing a research paper or lab report. However, the policy overall can mostly be seen as a disadvantage to students, especially to those in high school, as with full schedules packed with extracurricular activities, sports practice, and homework, honor-roll students are bound to miss or not perform well on a few assignments.
Teachers are also disadvantaged by this policy. Despite having effective teaching abilities, some students might not be achieving as high a grade in a class or two due to the new policy and overpacked, stressful schedules. Teachers also have to find new ways to give students “…opportunities to recover credit and demonstrate mastery through other relevant coursework” which can take away time from preparing main assignments and lessons.
Math teacher Mr. Dicus expressed that while it makes sense not to give students hundred-point extra credit assignments for simple tasks, it does not make sense to prevent students from gaining a few extra points through extra assignments. “I agree that students shouldn’t be able to earn one-hunded fifty percent on something because [you cannot] demonstrate learning more than one-hundred percent of what you were supposed to learn. However, I do believe [teachers] should find ways for students to do enrichment [assignments] and earn credit when [needed].”
Hammond students have expressed their frustration at this new and sudden policy.
Freshman Safi Hampton thinks the new policy inconveniences students. “[Extra credit] really helps [students] out at the end of the quarter and with midterms when you sometimes need just a couple more points, and now we can’t get those extra points and that kind of sucks. […] Since we have to be on top of stuff, and I guess we should be on top of everything anyway, now we really need to be on top of everything. Since there’s no way to get extra points now we have to get full points on every one of those assignments or else there’s no way of making it up.”
One junior commented, “I don’t like [the new policy] because [extra credit] helps boost grades sometimes. You used to be able to do extra work if you did bad on a big test, and now you can’t do that…If you’re not a good test taker, or if you just didn’t do well on a test then you no longer have a way to boost your grade…they should get rid of this policy.”
Meanwhile, sophomore Kelly Kujawa stated, “I think [the new extra credit policy] is an excessive attempt to control what [grade] people are able to get. I understand why they do it, however, it’s limiting those kids who really need it and it’s not giving them the opportunity to really strive for a good grade when they want it and are motivated to do it. When [students] are motivated to [change their grades for the better], they will take on the extra credit and that’s why I feel like it’s something that should be allowed to bump up their grade because they’re willing to put in that extra time and extra effort to get that extra good grade.”
It is no secret that the American public school system does not cater to individual learning styles. While one student might ace tests and quizzes but not have the best work ethic, others might never miss homework assignments but be poor test-takers. Extra credit aided in helping all students, no matter their strong suits, and now that has been taken away.
The lack of extra credit within Howard County this year is only making it harder for students to explore their individuality, as they will be even more concerned about grades. The worry over grades only lessens student creativity and curiosity.