Wake school leaders balk at banning extra credit grades

Board balks at ban of extra credit, but likes zero for no work

khui@newsobserver.comAugust 28, 2012 

— Wake County school administrators are backing away from grading changes that would prevent teachers from offering extra-credit assignments to students.

School administrators have been promoting the changes because they say grades should be handed out consistently and should only reflect what students know. Some of the changes were scaled back during a discussion Tuesday at a school board committee meeting.

Ruth Steidinger, senior director for middle school programs, told board members she understood and accepted the board’s concerns about banning bonus work.

Based on the work of a task force of school employees and parents, Steidinger had previously recommended that teachers no longer be allowed to give extra-credit assignments. She cited how teachers use extra credit differently so that students could get a different grade depending on whose class they’re in. She also cited how teachers have given extra credit for things such as students bringing in boxes of tissues.

But on Tuesday, Steidinger presented revised wording saying that teachers could give extra credit for academic reasons.

Board members, who previously complained about eliminating extra credit, signaled their support for the change.

Board members also had their say when Steidinger presented new wording saying that assignments that aren’t handed in wouldn’t be given a zero. Instead, they’d get only as low as a 50 in elementary and middle school and as low as a 63 in high school.

The idea behind not granting a zero is that the score is so low that it makes it harder for students to mathematically get a passing grade. But board members indicated they weren’t comfortable with eliminating the use of zeros or changing the grading scale.

“If you don’t do your work, your boss doesn’t say I’ll give you half credit,” said board member Jim Martin, chairman of the policy committee.

Board members also said setting 50 as a low score could make it harder to see how well students are doing in a class.

But even if zeros are still offered, board members said they want to make sure there’s a process that will allow motivated students to have the chance to pass the course.

Board members also indicated they had concerns with changes such as allowing any student to request a retest to get a higher grade. Board members asked about limiting this option to students who are in danger of failing the class.

“I’m worried about super high-achieving kids wearing their teachers out,” said board member Susan Evans.

The committee hasn’t finished reviewing the rest of the proposed grading changes, including developing a report card for middle school and high school students to record their behavior. This would change the grades now issued to be related only to their academic performance.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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