Kleenex? Bowtie? Extra credit comes in all forms

Graschelle Hipolito, Sports Editor

Juniors Graschelle Hipolito, Julianne Tran, Jack Stensland, and Mason Aguila (left to right) pose in their Fancy Friday attire with AP Calculus teacher Eric Vallecillo.
Juniors Graschelle Hipolito, Julianne Tran, Jack Stensland, and Mason Aguila (left to right) pose in their Fancy Friday attire with AP Calculus teacher Eric Vallecillo.
How much should extra credit influence a person’s grade?
Shaan Bhalaru Daniel Barajas Jamie Wallis
Junior Junior Freshman
“If [students] want to do extra credit to help them, it should be available.” “It should be able to change a borderline grade to the next grade.” “It should affect students’ grades in case they are in a hole.”
Balaru Barajas Wallis

Incomplete work or low test scores often cause students to worry about their grades, but many look forward to other forms of help – especially extra credit – to provide that extra bump in their grade.

Along with their expectations for students, modes of instruction, and methods of testing students on material, teachers’ policies for offering extra credit varies.

In early December, anatomy and physiology teacher Michael Heberle signed an agreement to give his students one answer to his 150-question final for every 100 retweets and he posed for a picture posted to Twitter by senior Sidney Thompson. The picture quickly went viral and received over 16,000 retweets in less than one day.

Heberle then had to devise a proper way to administer a final while still upholding his side of the agreement. He decided to give each of his students a scrambled copy of the final questions along with answers with two days to study in preparation.

“I wanted to create a way that would still require students to study the material to earn a good grade and I thought that method would suffice,” Heberle said.

Heberle’s method proved to be effective with a majority of students passing and even acing the final; many anatomy students reported that their high scores on the final essentially helped their overall grade.

Many teachers consider extra credit opportunities that would be beneficial for the students in an academic sense, but also in order to help instill important life skills to emphasize success in other aspects.

For example, science teacher Steven Meredith offers extra credit to students who participate in the annual Coastal Cleanup Day at Sandman Park or those who consistently attend after school tutorials. English teacher Laura La Rue allows students to come in after school to work on previous essays to be resubmitted and regraded with corrections, with test corrections worth ¼ credit of the original question’s score. APUSH teacher Heather Blount also permits students to correct tests with each corrected answer worth half credit of the original.

In contrast, other teachers also provide non-academic extra credit opportunities to their students.
English teachers Claudia Mennuti and Karen Minick offer a few extra credit points for students who bring Kleenex tissues or water bottles. Science teacher Steffi Terrill gives points similarly for students who provide canned goods.

“It sounds to me like teachers need to collaborate about what extra credit should be,” Principal Bill Atterberry said. “As a staff, we hope to find agreement, but it has to be something that teachers derive on the expectation of what is right. We have to create a forum for teachers to discuss what message we want to send to our students.”

Math teacher Eric Vallecillo provides extra credit opportunities by having students make study guides on each chapter’s material, hold group study sessions, and “dress for success” on Fancy Fridays.

“I thought about how I became successful in college through study guides or study groups, and the idea is
positive reinforcement to encourage students to do the same,” Vallecillo said. “Even if it’s little, you’d be surprised what students do with the incentive of extra credit.”

More popularly, Vallecillo offers extra credit opportunities for students to “dress for success” on Fancy Fridays.

“I remember in college, I thought if I dressed better that I would want to do better, so I wanted students to do that [for Fancy Fridays],” Vallecillo said.

Students not only benefit from the extra credit assignments on the subject, but also learn from the “dress for success” philosophy.

“I like what [Mr. V] is doing for Fancy Friday extra credit even if it’s not worth that many points,” junior Daniel Barajas said. “You’re supposed to come to school to do your best and dressing your best reinforces that mindset.”

Extra credit opportunities are considered crucial for students who wish to raise their grade with the help of a few points or to put themselves at a “safer” percentage than their current state.

“I didn’t do an [extra credit] assignment and my grade could have gone up by almost three percent,” junior Hillary Nguyen-Pham said. “I think it may have been important to do because then I wouldn’t have had to stress out so much to meet and maintain an A by the end of the semester. I would have been better off ahead by a few percents or points than behind.”

While extra credit may aid students in achieving a higher grade or teach them valuable life lessons, some students believe that it should only help to an extent and should not diminish the responsibility to try to do their best in the class.

“I think it’s more for borderline [grades], not a huge percentage,” junior Maxim Chiao said. “Students shouldn’t rely on extra credit to make or break their grade.”

However, extra credit, whatever form it may take, requires additional initiative and effort. If teachers present the opportunity, many students will choose to take part for their own benefit.