Despite allegations that extra credit has been banned at Samo, Principal Laurel Fretz has not revised any policies, but rather attempted to guide teachers in adopting extra credit practices proven by research to help students learn
“If you give extra credit, it must be for standards-based work. Not for bringing paper towels,” Fretz said in a memo sent to all Samo teachers. “Extra credit is for learning, not compliance.”
According to Fretz, these suggestions, which have recently caused confusion among students and staff, are not mandatory or even new policies but rather educational suggestions. According to Fretz, the principal does not possess the power to change policies or teaching methods. The power to change policies is left to the Board of Education and the power to change teaching methods is left to individual teachers.
“It is not a new policy. I cannot set policy. It is not a new rule. And it is not something I can even make teachers accountable for,” Fretz said. “I am sharing with them as their principal and as their guide the best practices and special practices in grading.”
Students, however, feel that teachers are not correctly interpreting Fretz’s guidance.
“I think that even though they are suggestions, teachers are strictly enforcing them. The whole bringing the paper towel thing to get an A in the class is a little corrupt so I [understand] why she wants to limit that, but there are other extra credit opportunities that are being limited,” senior Nikky Ucedo said.
In years past, marine biology teacher Benjamin Kay offered frequent extra credit opportunities to his students, which eventually added up to become a large percentage of the grade. Some extra credit opportunities were more closely related to the curriculum than others. For example, Kay would have students attend beach and wetland clean-ups, environmental documentaries, and sustainability awareness events. Because Kay teaches classes about environmental awareness, these extra credit opportunities connect directly to the standards he teaches. However, according to Kay, by offering as much extra credit as he did, students became lazy in regards to the regular coursework.
“Before, I would give extra credit for all of these things and some people would just not study for the test because they’re like ‘oh I’ll just make up for my poor performance by going and doing Mr. Kay’s credit events,’” Kay said. “Now, the students feel a sense of, ‘Oh my gosh! A test is coming up and I only have this test to prove myself.’ They don’t have a crutch so it forces the students to really know the material.”
Other teachers, like math teacher Kelly Okla, have never offered any extra credit at all.
“I think that [extra credit] inflates grades,” Okla said.
In order to prevent this “inflation” of grades, Kay’s extra credit events have now become a mandatory “service learning” category of his class. Kay said he was never forced to make this change, but took Fretz’s suggestion.
Any amount of extra credit can be offered, if the teacher so chooses. Social studies teacher Robert Alvarado believes extra credit can be helpful and educational. Alvarado offers extra credit in the form of historical trivia where he asks questions from trivia cards to his classes. The first response gets the extra credit points.
“[It’s] a fun way of getting students involved and a way for them to earn a couple extra points,” Alvarado said.
Students share similar sentiments.
“My opinion is that it should not be the main majority of the class. I believe that if students are in the A range and they want to get to the A+ range, it should give them that little push but it shouldn’t make up the majority of the class points,” senior Cassandra Kliewer said.